United Nations Plaza sits in the center of San Francisco. Most people consider it a complete failure as a public space. Its central feature, at the entrance of the plaza, is a unique fountain that was designed by Lawrence Halprin in 1975. The water shoots out at various angles, from inside a sunken pit, filled with large granite slabs. It’s a design that kind of pulls you in and invites you to take the steps down to the water and climb in between the hulking stones. And that’s part of the problem.
In 2004, radio producer Ben Temchine, created a really fantastic documentary of UN Plaza, called “The Biography of 100,000 Square Feet” that first aired on my first radio program called Invisible Ink in May of 2004. (Yep another “invisible” show) The documentary really takes a hard look at UN Plaza when it was really at its worst and asks the question, is there a point where the good intentions and idealism of a design become so removed from reality, that it actually borders on negligence?
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