San Francisco’s Richmond District
by Lorri Ungaretti
After examining a few potential sites, we decided that the Richmond District has the most appropriate typology for our project. Because of its relatively flat topography, grid plan and many intra-blocks, this neighborhood has the most potential for our research. In order to examine and catalog the conditions of the Richmond District, I took a look at historic maps and records of the area.
In the book “San Francisco’s Richmond District,” Ungaretti uses a series of maps and images to explain the historic cemeteries, transportation routes, and other public buildings that were present in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the 1800s, what is now the Richmond District was part of “The Outside Lands” or the “Great Sand Bank” because it was primarily composed of sand dunes. The weather was and still is cold and foggy during the summers and the air is much cleaner than it is in downtown. For our project, the question that arises is what affect will climate and soil/sand have on the production of food.
Because the “Great Sand Bank” was far away from where most people lived, it became the center for cemeteries. Although the cemeteries were dug up prior to being landscaped for new housing developments, it is necessary to research the implications of growing food from that kind of soil/sand. By consulting with a geo-tech engineer, we will examine the advantages and disadvantages of designing in this environment.
Transportation also came early to the District, raising the question of how old tracks and rails can be used and revitalized as IGS (Informal Green Space). Much like the High Line in New York and the soon-to-come Bloomingdale Trail in Chigaco, abandoned train tracks can become spaces for recreation and leisure, highlighting the landscape and special views of the city.
Looking at pictures from the District, it is evident that intra-blocks have always been part of the typology of the land. What is unfortunate is that most of the designs and uses have stayed the same. It is an exciting moment to intervene and re-imagine what the intra-blocks of the Richmond District could be utilized for.
By first understanding the conditions of the land, we will examine and research potential design solution for spaces for food growth, play, leisure and sustainability.