Perched at the edge of one of the most impressive overlooks in San Francisco, Lands End Lookout is a new building at the edge of human culture and nature that provides visitors with a place to get a break from the cold pacific fog. The small, modern building, which is currently seeking LEED Platinum certification, brings a visitor center, cafe and much-needed bathrooms to the popular park, while limiting its impact on the natural landscape. As part of AIA SF's 9th annual Architecture and the City festival, Phoebe Schenker from architecture firm EHDD led a tour of the new building. Read on for a closer look!
Set upon a site overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the ruins of the Sutro Baths in the cove below, Lands End Outlook was designed as a space for visitors to quickly step into to get a map, grab a snack, or use the restroom. It’s a gateway to the outdoors, which is partly why the 4,150-square-foot structure is so small — visitors are expected to spend only a short amount of time in the building, on the way to or from the park.
During the tour, Schenker explained that EHDD used passive design techniques to naturally heat and cool the building. The building doesn’t just take advantage of natural daylighting, it also harnesses the prevailing winds, allowing air to pass under the building in order to naturally cool it. EHDD is a firm that specializes in aquarium design (the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the firm’s more famous commissions), and because of its experience working with salt water, the firm was able to design Lands End Lookout to withstand the salt in the air at Lands End.
San Francisco-based SURFACEDESIGN INC was the project’s landscape designer, and the firm added some very notable contributions. Because the park is operated by the National Park Service, all plants must be native. But, as Schenker explained, NPS’s definition of ‘native’ is much stricter than most — all plants used in the landscape were germinated from seeds found on-site and grown in a nursery in the nearby Presidio. Additionally, reclaimed Monterey cypress wood was used in the benches; reclaimed cedar was used for fencing; and repurposed oyster shells that were found on-site were used as mulch.
The landscape isn’t the only place were reclaimed materials were used, though; the building’s siding consists of reclaimed redwood from an old saw mill on the north coast, the beautiful doorway is made of curly redwood that was salvaged from the Redwood Room Bar at the nearby Cliff House. And in one of the building’s most interesting design features, salvaged replicas of original lion statues from the Sutro Baths have been installed on the building’s exterior and at the entrance.
Solar photovoltaic panels on the roof provide about 11,000 kWh (more than 30 percent of the building’s energy needs). Additionally, low-flow toilets were installed in the bathrooms, which are expected to save about 73,000 gallons of water each year. The building was originally expected to achieve LEED Gold certification, but that estimate was a bit conservative — Schenker says that it is now expected to get LEED Platinum.