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San Francisco, CA 2008

Challenge

What can a city do with the odd, neglected space under a freeway? In San Francisco where an abandoned three-acre parcel occupies space below several freeway off-ramps, the answer is Mission Creek Sports Park. It is a “whimsical yet functional community destination”, reports San Francisco Chronicle columnist, John King.

Approach

Who says that utilitarian buildings need to be boring? MKThink’s focus was the creation of two simple yet dramatic structures. The Kayak House securely stores 20 human-powered watercraft and its eye-catching design, with marine grade wood slats and translucent blue poly-carbonate skin. It pays homage to the historic wooden ships that used to ply Mission Bay. A Maintenance Pavilion, the underlying structure of which is a cost-effectively pre-engineered metal building frame, borrows a similar exterior vocabulary and stylishly houses public restrooms and park & recreation equipment. Serving as counterpoints to one another, the two structures challenge the preconception that utilitarian structures must be boring—something to be hidden rather than celebrated. Here both structures add dramatic and playful flair to an urbanscape otherwise dominated by freeway fly-overs, and serve as visual anchor points to the park. Both feature fanciful skins that reference the site’s nautical context.

“…this park beneath freeway ramps is a surprising joy…add a kayak storage building by MKThink that suggests a billowing tent of translucent blue plastic, and the result is genuinely unique. In other words, the kind of spot that makes a redevelopment district start to feel like a real neighborhood.”

– John King
“Decade in review: Top 10 in S.F. Architecture”
The San Francisco Chronicle, January 2010