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Panhandle Bandshell, San Francisco, CA
CMG Landscape Architecture, San Francisco, CA
The Panhandle Bandshell is a full-scale performance stage and modular landscape constructed entirely out of reclaimed materials. The novel repurposing of common materials coupled with the projects success as a sculpture and community event space make the Bandshell an exemplary model for collaboration between artists, landscape architects, environmental advocates, and community members. The performance and event based aspect of the project challenges the political stasis that governs most contemporary public spaces and raises the question of who and what they are for.
As landscape architects we have long recognized the importance of programming, civic engagement and stewardship in the ongoing success of public spaces. The Panhandle Bandshell project was produced by a diverse team of artists, designers, engineers, fabricators, event producers and volunteers with leadership and design provided by the landscape architects.
The project was sponsored by the Black Rock Arts Foundation as part of its ScrapEden SF program. The ScrapEden SF program was developed with funding from the San Francisco Department of the Environment to create unique tools that educate the public about the importance of recycling, reuse, and composting with an ultimate goal of changing resident's behaviors around trash in San Francisco.
The project is a great example of how artistic collaboration and civic engagement in projects with a modest budget and scale can have a significant and far reaching impact. Although it was temporary, the project engaged diverse communities in a volunteer effort designed to:
- Demonstrate through creative reuse of materials that a beautiful structure can be built from material that would otherwise have been thrown away, raising collective awareness of our impact on the environment.
- Increase park stewardship by providing a one of kind space for neighbors to come out of their homes and gather in ways that support the local community and community-building.
- Provide an accessible venue for the many talented performers who live and work in the area.
- Provide a neighborhood place for play and creative expression.
- Provide a place for teaching and learning about how we in our neighborhood can support the environment through recycling, reuse and participation in the new curbside composting programs.
Site and Context
Like most cities San Francisco's parks have suffered from a lack of investment, maintenance and programming. The Bandshell project was developed partly in response to this condition and was carefully located in the Panhandle Park by working closely with the Recreation and Parks Department and numerous neighborhood groups to evaluate and select a site that worked from a site design and political standpoint. The structure was located in accessible area at the end of an underused asphalt surface, facing a generous meadow and capturing the setting sun. In addition the structure was oriented to avoid acoustic impacts to the adjacent neighbors.
The project addressed the political and physical context of the site by utilizing the iconic form and program of traditional bandshells that populated civic greens and large urban parks from 1860 – mid 20th century. The simplicity and familiarity of the form is rendered in a contemporary lexicon of reclaimed materials. The result is an articulate yet uncanny structure with vernacular charm and baroque whimsy. As a fully modular structure, it can easily be dismantled, moved and re-assembled anywhere to activate public space.
From the delivery of pre-fabricated components to the completion of the structure and its three month occupation of the site, the Bandshell reoriented and reprogrammed the movement, use, and social interaction within the park. The physical form of the structure, its open source program as a public stage and the highly collaborative design/ construction process enabled people to participate directly in the making of the space; changing the social milieu of the site and creating an ephemeral community.
Design Strategies — Collaborative — Networked — Participatory
The Bandshell project builds on strategies and ideas from a long thread of artists and reflects the potential of participatory art and networked creative production as methods for urban renewal and reinterpretation. In contrast to other forms of art making, architecture, or urban design, participatory art pieces are not fixed; they evolve according to the contributions of the participants. This kind of art opens a space for critical collaboration, in which the public mediates political and cultural disputes through the creation of the work. By borrowing strategies from online social communities and networked communications and combining them with physical construction and material culture, new aesthetics and communities were made possible.
A multifaceted outreach and environmental education program was developed to fulfill the community building, environmental education, and social aspects of the project. The effort included the development of a website (www.panhandlebandshell.com), outreach at neighborhood meetings, and numerous composting and waste reduction workshops. Community members were invited to participate in the construction and hundreds of volunteers showed up to help, virtually all the labor and services required to design and build the project were donated or volunteered. Of course, the real value in the effort was not in the structure itself, but in the events that it sponsored and the community that it made space for. Following a full day of events on the grand opening, community members from all over the city booked their own shows via a web based calendar. For three months, children's story time, eclectic performance pieces, solo guitarists, poets, and a jug band graced the stage. The space was managed and maintained by community volunteers and the project team at no cost to the city.
Finch Mob — Arts Collective, Project Concept and Coordination
Marcus Guillard, Project Catalyst
Will Chase, Omniscient Narrator, Project Manager
Steve Young, Design and Construction Manager
REBAR — Arts Collective, Design and Technical support
San Francisco Department of the Environment, Grant Funding
Black Rock Arts Foundation, Grant Funding, Legal and Technical Support
Degenkolb Structural Engineers, Structural Engineering
Working Art, Khabir Salahadyn, Structural Steel Fabrication
Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council
Haight Ashbury Improvement Association
Neighborhood Parks Council
65 recycled car hoods
75 recycled wooden doors
3,000 recycled water bottles
200 pounds of recycled computer circuit boards
"This exemplifies how a temporary project of modest budget and scale can transform an existing urban landscape, increase public stewardship, and demonstrate creative reuse of materials that would have otherwise been discarded. Although the resulting bandshell pays homage to its 19th century precedents, it also demonstrates how the collaborative process on building on-site can create a powerful new esthetic of whimsy and innovative thinking."
— 2009 Professional Awards Jury