Tucked behind Edwardian homes and nestled amidst mature evergreens, Mountain Lake Park Playground fits seamlessly within its surrounding context as it slopes gently to the shore of Mountain Lake on the southern edge of the Presidio.
Mountain Lake Park Playground featured in The Plan
Mountain Lake Park Playground Gets a Blast of Colour (Azure Magazine)
The Mountain Lake Park Playground renovation was initiated by a group of local mothers, in partnership with the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. The women formed the ‘Friends of Mountain Lake Park Playground’ in 2010, after learning a renovation could only happen with community and volunteer support. With one of the lowest San Francisco Parks Alliance ratings in the district, visitors to the playground were worried that its deteriorating wooden structures created an unsafe play environment. Through funding from the Clean & Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, a substantial donation from the ‘Friends’ group and assorted donations from the community, as well as donated services from our practice, Lutsko Associates, and Holmes Structures, the playground was restored.
This renovated playground takes advantage of the site’s topography, with separate play areas on terraces, organized according to age and ability, threaded together by a series of meandering pathways that provide an accessible route throughout. We preserved a treasured concrete slide – the centerpiece of the playground – that cascades down the side of a large earthen mound. Midway on the journey to the top of the slide, an observation platform sits perched on a forest of steel columns, evocative of the trees in the surrounding park. The platform overlooks the preschool area below and nearby Mountain Lake. Openings in the platform provide framed moments of intrigue for the users both above and below.
Additional design elements draw on the rich natural history of the site. The ‘sand dunes’ of the preschool area represent the rolling sand dunes that once spread across the region; the ribbed pattern of the concrete walls is an abstraction of tulle reeds that line the shores of Mountain Lake; tracks of birds and animals native to the area imprint the surface of the wall that borders the school age area; while large sculptures, including a frog and turtle, acknowledge the native aquatic life in the lake. These site-specific references are enriched by large timber play structures, giving the impression that they were fashioned from logs of the surrounding forests.