September 17, 2013

The Three Competing Designs For The Presidio's Commissary Site


The three final proposals for redeveloping the Presidio's former Commissary site which is currently occupied by Sports Basement have been received by the Presidio Trust and will be presented to the public on September 23. If you'd like to take a peek at the proposed designs and uses for the 16-acre site prior to the public presentation, however, here they are:

1. George Lucas' Cultural Arts Museum Proposal (Final)

2. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy's Presidio Exchange Proposal (Final)

3. The Bridge/Sustainability Institute's Proposal (Final)

While no specific date has been given, the winning concept is expected to be selected and announced either later this year or early in 2014.

First Published: September 17, 2013 12:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

When is the Presidio Trust expected to announce the winner?

[Editor's Note: While no specific date has been given, the winning concept is expected to be announced either later this year or early in 2014.]

Posted by: David at September 17, 2013 1:03 AM

just please not the lucas proposal. It is no more than slightly dressed strip mall architecture.

Posted by: knock at September 17, 2013 6:57 AM

@knock - Regardless of architectural preference, it is the only one of the three that people will even go to...

Posted by: JWS at September 17, 2013 7:27 AM

@knock- Lucky that we all can express our opinions. Let it be Lucas.

If an alien landed on our planet and was asked to select a design I suspect that any of them would be pointed to...unless of course it was a "saitowitz"!

Posted by: Everyman Productions at September 17, 2013 7:47 AM

Although the Lucas museum would be a great addition of popular art (and draw lot's of visitors to it). Please talk to Mr. Lucas and the people at the Presidio Trust about that "Taco Bell Moderne" look that is being proposed, there is no reason to continue that unfortunate look in and around the Presidio.

Posted by: e flat at September 17, 2013 8:54 AM

The Lucas building looks like the Grand Safeway/Barnes & Noble complex that is all over Southern Calif and Arizona (and our own 'burbs).

It's tacky and suburban notwithstanding the efforts of taking cues from Presidio/Exposition history. IMO

Posted by: Invented at September 17, 2013 9:22 AM

That's certainly a tacky monument to one mans ego. I don't understand. He wants to capture the architecture of the Panama Pacific Exhibition, but what it looks like is a themed outlet mall. This looks nothing like the great buildings from the Panama Pacific exhibition, or Chicago's worlds fair, or The Panama–California Exposition in San Diego which left all those museum buildings in Balboa Park. I'd prefer something daring and contemporary, but If this museum actually resembled some of the grand structures still standing from those fairs, I'd be excited. The renderings and descriptions in that document just look and sound like tacky crap from a once visionary man who sadly is only surrounded by "yes" men.

Posted by: EmmJayDee at September 17, 2013 9:33 AM

Either of the two contemporary/modern solutions would be appropriate and more reflective of our time than the nostalgic inspired Lucas solution.

I wish George and his architects would come to their senses.

Posted by: Futurist at September 17, 2013 9:45 AM

There is no doubt in my mind that the public would favor the Lucas route.

Its definitely not the most unique of the bunch, architecturally, but I appreciate his intentions, nodding to the 1925 PPE, and maybe hinting at similarities with the rest of the Spanish revival looking architecture on the Presidio. If he's going for "grand, cultural center", he's got a ways to go.

After a quick read through the three proposals, Lucas's does seem to be the most, kind of, self serving. And lacks quite a bit of infrastructural planning.

The GGNPCPE (The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy's Presidio Exchange) proposal spends a great amount of energy on integrating itself with the environment, which is awesome.

Either way, I'm excited to see which proposal takes it.

Posted by: Rob at September 17, 2013 10:02 AM

The Lucas proposal is kitschy, but for a museum of popular/commercial art, it seems fitting. Like the collection of Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, and Star Wars, it's meant for the masses, middlebrow. So an easy, accessible populist style is appropriate to the function in that sense.

Posted by: James at September 17, 2013 10:06 AM

Where is the parking? That area is already a nightmare for vehicle traffic and the Sports basement's huge parking lot would be removed in these plans.

All of the options are sh*t. We should just leave the sports basement there.

Posted by: Alex M at September 17, 2013 10:08 AM

@ James: so, in other words, if I read you correctly;

The Lucas proposal being "kitschy" as you say is appropriate for the masses, because they are too dumb to appreciate, or understand modern architecture?

So this project, design wise speaking, should be dumbed down, for the middlebrow public?

Rockwell and Parrish have an important place in American art; their work is in the best museums in the country. Their work is hardly middlebrow.

Posted by: Futurist at September 17, 2013 10:20 AM

I really like the Lucas idea but I don't like the design, I feel like it fits in to the environment, especially with the place of fine arts. But I feel like the design can be much grand, maybe add a dome or something that adds a signature, that catches people's attention. I really like the design for the next two contestants because they are very modern and seem very environmental sustainable, it also adds a lot of open space for people to just sit and take in the views.

Posted by: Alex at September 17, 2013 10:40 AM

Agree with the others here. I prefer the third design, but I like the second as well. The Lucas design looks almost exactly like the Mill Valley strip mall with the In-n-Out in it.

Posted by: shza at September 17, 2013 10:44 AM

Can we take Lucas' museum and put it in the Presidio Exchange building? I much prefer the architecture of the second one, including the amphitheater. Not sure why I would ever go inside it, though.

What's disappointing is the lack of consideration for the fact that Sports Basement is not only a store, it's base camp for a lot of running, cycling and other athletic activity. It would be nice to see that function still supported in that location or nearby. Unfortunately with so little parking and the inevitable enforcement of its use, exercisers are going to find new meeting places and yet again make way for the McDoughboy family in Chevy Tahoes segment. I guess the Crissy Field Beach or Warming Hut parking lots will do but those have no amenable buildings for events or shelter in inclement weather, they're just parking lots. It would be ideal if Sports Basement could get tenancy in a building near Main Post or somewhere else within the GGNRA.

Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at September 17, 2013 10:48 AM

Has anyone else noticed the Presidio has become the battle ground of the billionaires? Diane Disney was a winner, but Don Fisher was not. I think George Lucas will not get his memorial and build in Chicago instead so Nancy Bechtle would be a winner. It seems you need more than a billion to have a voice in the Presidio.

For the record I like the Presidio Exchange entry which suits this unique location.

Posted by: Anon94123 at September 17, 2013 10:57 AM


the Lucas proposal includes 350 below grade parking spaces

it is also a 5 minute walk from the large parking lot in the Main Post

Posted by: Jake at September 17, 2013 11:13 AM

Presidio Exchange!

Posted by: PepeSF at September 17, 2013 11:33 AM

Futurist, you said dumb, not me. I'm just trying to find a charitable angle in which Lucas's taste in architecture can be seen as a legitimate housing for his personal collection of art. And I do find Rockwell and Parrish to be sentimental and romanticised, considering what was going on in the "high" art word of their respective times. And I think that's OK, but to be clear, they were hardly cutting-edge modernists.

Posted by: James at September 17, 2013 11:34 AM

yea, I did say dumb, James. I was just trying to cut thru your "veiled" comments. I'm just calling it like I see it.

To attempt to connect a nostalgic, romantic style of building with some of the art in it is a curious notion to me. So, Parish and Rockwell should only be in sentimental buildings, making them and the architecture more "safe" for the masses?

That's right. Let's not challenge the middlebrow masses. It might scare their horses too.

Posted by: Futurist at September 17, 2013 11:42 AM

The Lucas design is terribly uninspired. It is definitely the worst of the three. Looks like a high-end mall in Scottsdale.

Posted by: anon at September 17, 2013 12:27 PM

Futurist, who are you calling "the middlebrow masses"? Are all people who would visit a cultural arts museum but haven't drunk the cutting-edge modernist Kool Aide and need "challenging" by those who have by definition "middlebrow"?

Do tell.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at September 17, 2013 12:31 PM

I don't know what is in the Lucas collection but if it's top heavy with Star Wars - what can I say. In 10 years Star Wars will not be this fabulous popular draw. This will be dated sooner rather than later. And for a soon to be anachronism, it's huge. Ugh. I was prepared to like it but it's clearly wrong. The other two will become more interesting over time as the issue of sustainability becomes more urgent.

Posted by: lark at September 17, 2013 3:22 PM

From The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy's Presidio Exchange Proposal (link above, pg 03 or pg 5 of the acrobat file):

The financial model for the PX calls for a phased capital campaign to raise approximately $76 million for Phase I from a deep network of dedicated park supporters. The operations plan is based on multiple earned-revenue streams that will cover the PX annual budget. The partner-driven approach to programming will enable the PX to deliver high-quality programs at relatively modest costs.

Phase I includes all major programmatic and visitor service functions.

At least they aren't going to try the (failed) bond-based ballot measure approach that voters nixed to replace the old quake-damaged De Young museum.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at September 17, 2013 4:24 PM

The Parks Conservancy is already stretched to its financial limits. Its programs support restoration and maintenance not just of the Presidio but throughout the entire Golden Gate National Recreation Area in parks spread over 3 counties. For the life of me I can't see how they're going to raise $76 million for phase 1 alone, then throw in operating costs AND maintain its existing programming.

Posted by: zzzzzzz at September 17, 2013 4:40 PM

From The Bridge/Sustainability Institute's Proposal (link above, pg 48 or pg 26 of the acrobat file):

This proposal represents a concept statement demonstrating the purpose and potential of the BRIDGE, and not yet a funded master plan with identified sponsors and funding partners. Nonetheless, we are convinced that the idea, institutional structure, and funding potential presented herein have sufficient strength and contemporary relevance to readily attract the right donors to support the master planning and implementation phases of this project.

Later on they talk about a plan to "Plan and implement a 2 year pivate/public capital fundraising campaign for the Bridge totaling $190 million."

Operating costs for the BRIDGE are estimated to be $7 million annual through the first five years of operation. "…the BRIDGE is nearly self-sustaining requiring only $1 million in annual contributed income in its first years of operations."

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at September 17, 2013 4:51 PM

"In 10 years Star Wars will not be this fabulous popular draw."

Uh. I was playing with Star Wars action figures in 1978, and my nieces, nephews, and second cousins are still playing with them.

Posted by: wc1 at September 17, 2013 5:41 PM

i dont care about star wars, but the George Lucas building definitley fits in better with the character of the presidio and I like it better. the other 2 are horrible

Posted by: Spencer at September 17, 2013 5:46 PM

It's bizarre that the Lucas proposal is encountering such little resistance, and no mention is made of Don Fisher's unsuccessful attempt at doing essentially the exact same thing just a few years ago. How is one billionaire's monument to his own ego different from anothers?

Posted by: hjo at September 17, 2013 7:47 PM


d) None of the above.
Can't we just plant some trees and call it done?

Posted by: ph_goat at September 17, 2013 9:05 PM

This couldn't be a more pathetic situation for SF architecture: we get a choice of either a couple of boring modernist boxes or an exponentially more boring ersatz historical box - what a MISSED OPPORTUNITY!!! on this site!

Lucas' 700 million dollars!!! could pay for nothing short of an architectural masterpiece - this happens to be the same cost of LACMA's proposed (love it or hate it) daring new building in LA by Pritzker Prize winning master architect Peter Zumthor! Instead we get Lucas' embarrassing, hack PoMo fakery.

Posted by: citicritter at September 17, 2013 10:33 PM

It is really a pity that Lucas is not interested in high art. The $700m could make a huge contribution to the FAMSF.

Regardless of socketsiters' personal taste, pop culture museums are comparatively easy to build and create, and can be done at any time.

High culture takes not just great fortunes, and always has, but generations. The best example is the Getty, perhaps the world's richest museum with the largest acquisition budget, which has gained international status over decades. Even with virtually unlimited resources at the beginning, it takes time and more time.

The situation is comparable to collections of Modern First Editions as opposed to medieval illuminated manuscripts and incunabula. Lucas is a Modern Firsts (with dust jackets) guy.
If San Francisco had been lucky, he would have been interested in chained bindings and block books.

Of course if you count the worth of a collection by the number of people who are interested, then pop culture will always win. Popular is popular.

Posted by: conifer at September 18, 2013 12:21 AM

@formidable doer of the nasty

Great point about Sports Basement being a basecamp for fitness. Whenever I go to Crissy Field I see people running, walking, riding bikes, playing Frisbee, climbing [indoor] rocks, bouncing on trampolines, essentially doing all sorts of physical activity, and agree that many either start at SB, meet there, park there, or rent/buy their equipment there. And, if not a basecamp, SB does function to reflect and amplify the atmosphere of fitness and physicality, being outdoors.

It's interesting these proposals focus neither on this identity of Crissy Field nor the role SB plays in it, and, in addition to honoring the history of the Presidio and integrating with the physical environment, didn't strive to integrate with and reflect how Crissy Field is actually used, by actual people. If they had, this new structure could have been championed by those currently frequenting Crissy Field while also attracting the new. I think it's an opportunity lost, and as others have said, very likely could result in the structure falling into disuse.

Posted by: walker at September 18, 2013 12:43 PM

Actually, all it will result in is more SUVs backed up along Crissy Field and the Marina all weekend. Unless they're planning a dedicated 101 exit for this place, there is no way they can accommodate the half million annual visitors the proposals are estimating. Oh that's right, "Transit First"! Bite me.

Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at September 18, 2013 2:20 PM

Posted by: SocketSite at September 18, 2013 3:04 PM

How was the Fisher Museum design considered too avant garde/modern for the Presidio. Yet some of these designs are nothing more than contemporary/modern infill structures? Is Contemporary architecture allowed in the Presidio, or not?

Posted by: gabriel at September 18, 2013 5:07 PM

I agree with your description of the non-Lucas-backed proposals. My reading on that was the difference is the specific site, not the Presidio as a whole.

Donald Fisher and family wanted to build their proposed contemporary art museum at the Main Post:

In an update to the Main Post plan — a survey of possible impacts posted Wednesday evening on the trust's Web site, — an outside analysis described the scale of the revised museum as "inconsistent with the overall historical character of its setting."

This isn't to say that they didn't face a lot of criticism for the design itself, they did.

But they wanted to transform a lot more of the Main Post than what these proposals plan to do to the former commissary.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at September 18, 2013 9:04 PM

The trad vs mod debate here on SS is simplistic.

The Parrish Museum by herzog & de meuron on Long Island shows that you can respect local building traditions without looking like a cheesy shopping mall. Check it out:

Conversely, it doesn't have to look like the millenium falcon (or a shipping crate) to be modern.

Posted by: rubber_chicken at September 19, 2013 7:47 AM

I agree rubber_chicken.

The Parrish is a fine, handsome, elegant, understated building; perfect clean spaces to display art.

But you are also treading a fine line. The Parrish could be seen (by some) as a finely crafted shipping crate, with a continuous sloped roof. Yes, the roof makes it more contextual with some of the local barns in The Hamptons.

Modern comes in many variations.

Posted by: Futurist at September 19, 2013 9:20 AM

i prefer sports basement where it is now. screw the museum. Sports basement is a social mecca for me

Posted by: Spencer at September 19, 2013 5:40 PM

What's the point of all this again? It's supposed to be a national recreation area, not the Presidio Trust's private commercial playground.

Sheez, 15 years ago we find ourselves with this amazing area that should be left natural as a national park, and instead we get wannabe mayors who want to build on it. Disgraceful.

Posted by: Gregg at October 4, 2013 2:01 PM

^^^ I thought that the Presidio Trust has a mandate to be financially self-sufficient. That cannot be accomplished with natural areas alone unless they start charging a $20 admission fee. Or receive fees from tenants.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at October 4, 2013 2:27 PM

Posted by: SocketSite at November 22, 2013 8:20 AM

UPDATE: National Park Service Pans Lucas' Presidio Museum Proposal, seeks several year deferral of any decision for the site.

Posted by: SocketSite at December 16, 2013 4:02 PM

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