Vision for San Francisco’s Crissy Field balances subtlety, spectacle

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Vision for San Francisco's Crissy Field balances subtlety, spectacle
A rendering of the future West overlook with a cantilevered walkway, among the options that have surfaced in the emerging vision for 13 acres of parkland to be created above San Francisco’s Crissy Field.

There’s a tendency today to emphasize big moves in the design of a region’s high-profile buildings and landscapes, as if nothing matters except the first gasp of wonder from afar.

The emerging vision for 13 acres of parkland to be created above San Francisco’s Crissy Field makes the case for a different reality: the pleasure of close encounters, spaces that offer intimacy as well as the drama of uncluttered views. Subtlety amid spectacle.

This is the balancing act being attempted for the bluff that will drape what once was Doyle Drive in the Presidio, a potentially stunning transition from the edge of the bay to the historic heart of the military post turned national park. The design concepts released this week show real progress toward creating spaces worthy of the setting. The question now is whether they’ll survive.

Doyle Drive’s conversion from an elevated roadway into what is billed as Presidio Parkway, much of it hidden within tunnels, has allowed park planners to rethink how Crissy Field and the Main Post could be joined after 75 years where they existed in separate worlds. Private donors including the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation already have pledged $35 million toward the project’s $51 million budget, and in December the Presidio Trust selected a team headed by James Corner Field Operations to take on the design. []