The Ridge Lane Project: Designing a Safe Community Park

[Nahal Sohbati] I think what is very unique
about landscape architecture is that it has so many branches and a space that you design
is not just for people. It affects different habitats
and different climates, different moods — also it has this factor of time in it. It’s almost like designing in the fourth dimension, because it has this changing element in it. So Ridge Lane is a fifteen-foot-wide vacant lot in the Ingleside neighborhood of San Francisco. The site is a result of the rapid growth
of this housing development in Ingleside. It was meant to be a street,
but it remained vacant because of its narrow width. For many generations, the neighbors in this area used it as a shortcut
to connect to their neighborhood transit hub — it’s not an ideal site to walk through
because it’s very rocky, and it’s attracting a lot of crime as well. So a group of neighbors came together and decided to change this vacant lot
to a better neighborhood park. So when I visited Ridge Lane and the Neighbors, one of the most important comments
that I really wanted to incorporate in my design was the fact that they were looking for
a place to be proud of. I really listened to their needs and concerns and tried to incorporate
all of their comments somehow
in my design. [Resident 1] It’s very cool; I like how
it has some definitely —
like, urban vibes to it. But also beautiful green space — and very welcoming and invitational places to sit, clearly, places to walk —
convenient way to get to BART. But it’s just a really nice, welcoming design. The kind you don’t really notice,
which I think is the best kind of design, where it really integrates itself
into the community that it’s been built into. [Resident 2] And it’s already brought
a lot more people coming down the hill and it’s just sort of a natural pathway
for people to go down there. Once it’s finished it’s going to be used a lot. The other thing that’s wonderful is Nahal,
who’s the designer of this thing, is really planning this to be kind of a — almost like a butterfly sanctuary, at some point. So we’re putting in a lot of butterfly-friendly
native plants and that’s the hope, so we’ll see. [Nahal] I feel very proud, and more than anything, I feel very fortunate
because I know how important
this site is to the neighbors, and they’ve been working on it for eight years now. And being trusted by them that I’m the one
who’s designing this place is just amazing.

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