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Revitalizing an Icon

Ghirardelli Square Plaza
San Francisco, California, USA

This master plan restores and revitalizes Ghirardelli Square, one of San Francisco’s most enduring and beloved public spaces.

Anchoring the east end of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the three-acre landmark plaza enhances the city’s urban fabric and regional open space network. Opened in 1962, Ghirardelli Square was designated as a San Francisco city landmark in 1964.

Over the next five decades, the plaza underwent a series of design alterations that departed from the original vision of landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and architect William Wurster. These modifications cluttered the space and made it less accessible, creating circulation pinch points and obstructing views of San Francisco Bay.

The master plan identifies several projects to improve public access, strengthen transportation connections and increase year-round use of the plaza.

Working closely with the City of San Francisco’s Historic Preservation Commission, HOK developed palettes for landscape materials, plantings and furnishings compatible with Halprin’s original vision for the plaza. The design solution meshes Halprin’s geometric planting layouts and layering techniques with regional and local plant species. These strategies greatly reduce irrigation demand, increase species biodiversity and reinforce Ghirardelli Square’s sustainable mission.

Central plazas, courtyards and open spaces activate Ghirardelli Square during the day and into the night. Beginning at the upper plaza, the design transforms a series of small, unusable terraces into a single event space that supports indoor and outdoor uses along the ground floor of the adjacent Mustard Building. Suspended paving systems beneath the terrace and plaza help conceal electrical, water and AV infrastructure connections during plaza events.

The team also developed design guidelines and oversaw the design of several individual projects within Ghirardelli Square. 


3 acres / 1.2 hectares


Electrical Engineering
Landscape Architecture
Lighting Design
Master Planning
Plumbing Engineering


American Society of Landscape Architecture Northern California Chapter – Merit
Award, Historic Preservation


21 April 2017
“Design for Ghirardelli Square Receives ASLA Award for Historic Preservation”
HOK News