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Sculptural and Playful: South Park, San Francisco

South Park, San Francisco

South Park, San Francisco's oldest public park, is a unique and historical area. The park, modelled after a square in London, was originally built as the centrepiece of this exclusive neighbourhood. Years of activity, however, took their toll and the park fell into disrepair.

The Recreation Park Department, South Park Improvement Association, neighbours and community leaders wanted to restore it to its original glory. Fletcher Studio Landscape Architecture, an award-winning landscape architecture firm, was commissioned to develop a master plan for the park, bringing the revitalized vision to reality. The new design can be described as a contemporary interpretation of the original park.

'Shout' rope climbing frame in South Park, San Francisco


The project entailed upgrading the park's infrastructure, including new paths, irrigation, drainage, site lighting, landscaping, swooping meadows and a new stage area for performances.

One striking addition: a custom-built play area with undulating forms both in structure and in the mounded surface. This flowing contemporary design by Fletcher and the 100% custom designed structure by Berliner makes it a truly one-of-a-kind design, one that has never been done before!

David Yosso, President of Specified Play Equipment Company and Berliner's exclusive representative for Northern California, calls the South Park design a "sculptural, playful art piece designed for all ages and imaginations."

Giant rope climbing frame from Berliner at South Park, San Francisco


In plan view, the play structure appears to be a perfect circle. From an elevation view, you see the undulations and curvatures.

The curvatures rise from ground level to 3 metres high with no visible upright posts. All posts, six of them, are below ground level. The mounding underneath the playground follows the curvature of the equipment, effectively hiding the upright posts and making the structure appear to float.

The different types of nets offer various degrees of challenge with plenty of foot and handholds for children to safely climb up and down vertically and laterally. The net climbers offer visual transparency, keeping sight lines open.

Sculptural and playful rope climbing frame in play area at South Park, San Francisco


Berliner's proprietary Charlotte Connectors, which make the rope ends disappear inside the steel tubes, allow for tension adjustments to be made on site, resulting in a more harmonic net geometry as well as improved longevity.

This structure offers challenges on various levels and non-prescriptive play: no defined or single route but many ways to play.

The modern, almost industrial colour choice reinforces the concept that this is more than a playground; it is almost like public art, complementing the many tech-related and design companies that call South Park home.

Large multi activity sculptural rope play structure in South Park, San Francisco playground


Play elements integrated into the flowing design include a banister slide, which provides an elegant alternative to a traditional slide, and a multi-user accessible basket swing.

Playgrounds in any community provide a distinctive landmark; however, South Park is more than a playground. It provides an example of redesigning a public space: combining the play value desired by children with the aesthetic appeal and style appreciated by adults - making it the perfect place for the whole family.

All photos courtesy of Fangzhour Miao and Chris Watkins.

'Shout' from Berliner- large rope climbing frame in play area at South Park, San Francisco