Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Presidio: How Much Change?

San Francisco's Presidio, a vast military post-turned-national park dating from 1776, is the largest historic renovation project underway in the United States. In the area of the Main Post alone there are more than 100 buildings in different states of repair.
This summer, everyone seems focused not on renovation but on a possible new building, specifically, the Contemporary Art Museum proposed by Donald and Doris Fisher, The Gap founders. The Fishers would like to build a 100,000-square-foot museum (larger than San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art) on a prime corner of the post's Main Parade grounds, steps away from the stately Montgomery Street Barracks, built in the 1890s (photo above). It would house their collection of 1,000 pieces of major artwork. There's now a tennis court and 1960s-style building with a bowling alley on the site.
Should a modern glass-and-concrete structure go up in an historic setting such as this? Should the Presidio Trust board, the agency that oversees and manages the park, reject the proposal or direct the Fishers to one of three alternate sites?
To help people decide, The Presidio Trust is conducting free 90-minute walking tours of the Main Post on Wednesdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Aug. 27. Meet at the ground floor of the Officers' Club.
It's a good tour. The one I took on Wednesday was led off by a Presidio Trust archeologist who discussed recent findings around the Officers' Club -- where three-foot thick adobe walls were uncovered that may date back to the late 1700s.
From there, two Presidio Trust staff showed us around the Main Post, stopping at the Parade grounds, the 1930s-era Presidio Theatre, the site of the Contemporary Art Museum, the proposed Park Lodge (a plan also under discussion, but less controversial) and the recently renovated Funston Street homes (photo below) that date from the Civil War.
From the questions that rose from the 50-or-so people on my walk, there was no question that the art museum is a hot topic. Most reflected the views of the neighborhood groups who are opposed to the plan: they seemed disturbed by the Fishers' proposed location. The building would be too big, too modern and incompatible for the historic Main Parade.
Many seemed open to alternatives, such as Infantry Terrace, an area tucked in the forested glen just a few hundred yards east or at the Sports Basement site near Doyle Drive and the Crissy Field marsh. This is a discussion that's going to be in the news a lot this fall. Decide for yourself. For more, see the Presidio's Web site.

1 comment:

PresidioPal said...

To understand the Presidio issues more fully, I recommend that people also study and There is a lot of propaganda on the Presidio Trust website. Thinking that we can "bring back the heart of the historic Presidio," as the Trust states, by building an art museum and a hotel is obvious nonsense.