Harvey Milk Plaza & Arts Grotto
San Francisco, California
A common characteristic of great cities is that they are not mere collections of buildings, but often sites of social and political revolution. The story of Harvey Milk and San Francisco is just such a story, one deserving of not only commemoration, but permanence and civic stature commensurate with his personal achievements and extraordinary sacrifice. The goal of our proposal for Harvey Milk Plaza was to both tell this story and provide a new civic space for its ongoing future development. As such our redesign was first and foremost based on equality--- reflecting the words of Harvey Milk himself when he spoke “All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words.” This plaza is accessible from all sides—through ramps, stairs, and elevator—excluding no-one. While the primary plaza occurs at a single level slightly elevated above the surrounding Castro neighborhood, yet accessible from multiple points, the underground area and subway access is given equal attention in our proposal. Our design transforms the underground passage to the MTA station into a vibrant “Arts Grotto” punctuated with carefully designed dramatic sunlight apertures—all used to illuminate temporary installations and other community projects. While the upper plaza is a space of political equity, and freedom to relax, meet, or act—the underground grotto for the arts is a space of public experimentation and more radical artistic engagement.