Historic landscape assessment workshop of United Nations Plaza

Posted in: Cultural Resources


Photo courtesy of Alen Ištoković
Photo courtesy of Alen Ištoković

In November I will be part of a team leading a full-day workshop on Landscape Assessment using the San Francisco Civic Center’s United Nations Plaza as our case study. The United Nations Plaza, designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, is a great example of Modernism in landscape architecture.

The workshop is a session of the PastForward Conference held November 13-16, and the workshop will be on Tuesday, November 13 from 8:30am to 5pm at the Art Institute of California.

The United Nations Plaza opened in 1975 and the fountain was dedicated to the signing of the United Nations charter. The signing took place in the Veterans War Memorial Building near the plaza in 1945, marking the 30th anniversary of the signing. The fountain reflects a highly innovative modernist design.

In the Landscape Assessment Workshop attendees will learn:

We will give a detailed history while we tour the plaza and fountain. The presentation will include information about the important spaces and features that comprise the original design. Discussion will include restoration efforts and current challenges faced by the plaza and fountain. The plaza and fountain are currently the subject of proposals for redesign. The community wishes to enhance the space for new uses and address a multitude of maintenance issues.

The workshop will include a discussion of the “The Civic Center Public Realm Plan” by Nick Perry, Senior Urban Designer and City Planner for the San Francisco Planning Department.

Chad MoffettAs part of the workshop, participants will be on-site for a Landscape Assessment Exercise where teams will focus on a landscape component or thematic aspect of the plaza and fountain. Teams will use the tools we provide in the session to review the landscapes and observe and record the landscape components and themes. They will then address how to assess their historic importance and historic integrity. Attendees will gain an understanding of Modernist landscape designs and how to assess landscape for their historic importance.

I’m excited. This should be a great workshop. I’ve taught many over the years and several on landscapes, but the United Nations Plaza is an exciting venue with unique aspects to explore. There is still time to register for the 2018 PastForward Conference and to sign up for this hands-on workshop. If you’re new to assessing landscapes, the tools we will provide can be applied to other landscapes you may encounter.


Chad Moffett

About the Author

Chad Moffett enjoys different types of historic preservation projects and helping our clients. “Every place has a unique and interesting history. Discovering and understanding these stories and how history affected the built environment is an exciting challenge,” he says. Chad specializes in developing balanced solutions that meet client needs while respecting historic resources for future generations.

Read more posts by Chad Moffett

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