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Urban Plaza Connections
Location San Francisco, California, United States
Client Wilson Equity Office
Scope Urban Design, Landscape Architecture
Size four 1,000 square foot public pl
Foundry Square is 1.2 million square foot office and retail development that is located at the crossing of two major arterials, First Street and Howard Street in San Francisco’s South of Market district (SOMA). The property on all four intersection corners are commonly owned providing a remarkable opportunity for creation of a new urban space as a centerpiece for the development. SWA initially studied the surrounding urban context and formulated several design approaches. After review, the client approved the design approach that is in contrast to that existing context, a block pattern in which buildings form the street wall and hold the corners. As a result, Foundry Square’s open corners collectively form a square, which embraces both the pedestrian movement along the perimeters and the street traffic in the middle. Being sited adjacent to Bay Bridge access, it creates a “threshold” that one passes through in moving onto the Bridge. An essential element of the square is its precise horizontal plane, formed from massive granite blocks, that spans the intersection to establish a common level plinth for all four buildings. The plinth is 18 inches above the street at the intersection to create a subtle separation of people and cars and cohesiveness for the space. As Howard Street slopes down to the east, broad steps take up the grade change but the platform elevation, set level on pedestals over structure, remains constant. The client’s goal was to create an active people-place for this new multimedia based work place. In conjunction with the architectural enclosure, this spatial construct unifies the four-cornered square and creates a setting for sculpture, tree bosques, cafes, over-scaled pots, and an active urban scene. Dual-glaze tech walls on the buildings unify the square while providing climate control and an arcade at the transition from interior to the exterior spaces. The City of San Francisco has a percent for art program that requires public art to be included in the project. However, rather than the typical approach of placing a permanent piece on the plaza, the design team developed a concept for creation of a trust that would fund rotating art pieces, thus allowing more variety and interest. Per a City of San Francisco parking ordinance, the Square has limited parking provided but, in response, the site provides convenient access to light rail transit as well as the central business district and the waterfront.