Friday, February 22, 2008

John King: "Shrubs are filling in...life goes on"

John King, the Chronicle's architecture critic, has a touching faith in the ability of landscaping to mitigate the city's recent planning mistakes. Too bad there's no landscaping tall enough to cover the highrises he encouraged that are now going up in downtown San Francisco.

John King on the new de Young Museum, Feb. 2005:
"Whether you anticipate or abhor the de Young's arrival depends on whether you welcome a splash of innovation in the staid local architecture scene, or you loathe a contemporary intrusion in our aged artificial park. But guess what? The controversy will fade. The de Young we grow to know will be filled with familiar art, wrapped in outdoor sculpture and vegetation."

King on Octavia Blvd., Jan. 2007: "A better way to gauge the boulevard's success involves the condition of the landscaping and public spaces. In other words, are they as enticing after real-life wear as they were on opening day? The heartening answer is yes. Shrubs are filling in. Trees are spreading out. It's easy to imagine thick bands of greenery in five years that offer visual screens and a true sense of place. The small park has blossomed as well. You'll see people with dogs and people with cell phones, shoppers passing through and locals settled on a bench with coffee and friends. A street person can be napping on a bench while kids clamber on the play structure, and life goes on."

King on waterfront restaurants, Feb. 2008: "With time, the fuss over Kuletoland will die down. These are two relatively small buildings in a powerful waterfront setting. As the young trees mature, the structures won't stand out so much. The shock of the new will fade."

King on Octavia Blvd., Feb. 2008: "An elevated freeway once loomed there. Now that structure touches earth south of Market Street, replaced by a four-block boulevard designed to handle commute traffic in the middle and local traffic on the sides. The roadway is softened by trees and shrubs that, almost 30 months after opening day, already look great."

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