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Garfield Center, a midcentury community pool complex in San Francisco updated by TEF Design in joint venture with Paulett Taggart Architects

Project name:
Garfield Center
Architecture firm:
TEF Design in joint venture with Paulett Taggart Architects
San Francisco, California, USA
Bruce Damonte
Principal architect:
Alyosha Verzhbinsky
Design team:
TEF Design team: Alyosha Verzhbinsky (Principal), Viral Vithalani (Project Manager), Robbie Wilcock, Mark Froemsdorf, Louise Louie, Paul Cooper. Paulett Taggart Architects team: Paulett Taggart (Principal), Jeff Hineline (Project Manager), Jacob Kackley (Designer)
Acoustic Consultant: Vibro Acoustic Consultant. Pool Consultant: Aquatic Design Group. Cost Consultant: Saylor Consulting Group. Signage: Lowercase Productions. LEED Consultant: STOK. Waterproofing Consultant: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger. Specifications: Emily Borland Specifications, Inc.
Interior design:
Built area:
22,000 ft²
Site area:
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Leahy Engineering
Structural engineer:
Rivera Consulting Group
Environmental & MEP:
Mechanical Engineer: Guttmann & Blaevoet Consulting Engineers. Plumbing / Electrical Engineer: E Design C, Inc.
San Francisco Department of Public Works
Architectural Lighting Design
Tools used:
City and County of San Francisco
Sports › Community Pool Complex

TEF Design: Encompassing the renovation of a 18,600-square-foot midcentury natatorium designed by William Merchant and the addition of a new 3,400-square-foot clubhouse and connecting entry lobby, this project responds to the wide range of recreational and educational needs in the Mission district, while strengthening its role as a rich cultural hub for community-building and interventional youth services.

The upgrade of the natatorium removed nonconforming exterior additions, and the south façade’s 1980 diptych mural “Primal Sea” was restored by its creator, Precita Eyes. The building’s canted western façade, obscured over time, was restored with a glass curtainwall featuring a colorful mural, by Bay Area artist Favianna Rodriguez, that celebrates the Latinx diaspora of immigrants in the Mission. Inside, the rehabilitated pool features a movable bulkhead to support simultaneous pool use by both lap swimmers and young children and elders with mobility challenges. Reconfigured and modernized restrooms and locker rooms enhance functionality and accessibility. 

The glass entry lobby offers views through the courtyard and soccer fields beyond while supporting use of the clubhouse after pool hours. Clad in colored phenolic panels and housing public restrooms and a flexible multipurpose room, the new clubhouse defers to the historic natatorium and opens to a new courtyard connecting the structures.

The project was driven and shaped by three primary goals.  First, as one of 15 parks funded by a bond measure, improving “access to safe and high-quality recreational facilities” was a fundamental objective of the client, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (RPD). Years of deferred maintenance and ad-hoc measures had resulted in existing facilities lacking functional cohesion and in need of upgrading to modern safety and recreational standards.  Second, given the project’s location in the Mission district, near the rapidly evolving Bernal Heights neighborhood, its design also needed to address a diverse demographic and wide range of potentially conflicting community needs and uses with equity in mind.   Lastly, it was imperative that the Center’s role as a vital hub for Latinx history, culture, and community be celebrated and reinforced.

Dedicated in March, the complex supported a Community Hub to provide students with distance learning support, healthy meals, and recreation opportunities in the clubhouse until its delayed opening in July due to the pandemic.  “Garfield Square is beloved by the neighborhood…” said San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “This major overhaul ... is a project that both reflects and was shaped by the community.”

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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