Affectionately called the “Green Dragon” by its architects, the new clubhouse for San Francisco’s Boeddeker Park is clad in scale-like zinc panels and has a rakish form: a long, low structure, the building rises to a 30-foot-high “head” on one end and a tail-like roof monitor on the other. The playful 4,000-square-foot facility, designed by local firm WRNS Studio, replaces a sunken, bunker-like clubhouse and is central to the park’s welcoming new approach. “There’s been a threshold moment where we’ve moved from defensible architecture to open and transparent spaces,” says design partner Bryan Shiles.
Located in the Tenderloin, the city’s poorest and densest neighborhood, the park opened in 1985 to provide muchneeded public space. However, security measures designed to prevent people from camping out overnight (among other things) overwhelmed its usability. The one-acre infill site was surrounded and subdivided by formidable fences. It was also bisected diagonally by a wide walkway, breaking the space up into awkward parcels.
The $9.3 million redesign, funded through a combination of public money and private donations to the Trust for Public Land (TPL), represents a complete rethinking of the amenity. WRNS Studio and TPL collaborated on the master plan, moving the park entrance so that all comings and goings are in view of the at-grade clubhouse. In addition to providing full transparency to the activity outside—“It’s like a porch overlooking the street,” says Shiles— the building’s window walls face the full-size basketball court, playground, and large lawn. The architects also removed the internal fences and switched out the wrought iron perimeter enclosure to a visually porous wire mesh. The clubhouse is one of the first city-operated properties to use geothermal wells for radiant heating.
Since opening at the end of 2014, park usage has increased threefold, with a large leap in numbers of children, teens, and seniors. For the latter group, there are now amenities designed just for them, including a walking path that encircles the park, and a community garden.