Nestled on the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge, the 75th Anniversary Plaza honors the bridge and bears its name. Here at the threshold of the bay and the ocean is the dramatic collision of sky, bridge, and fog, enveloping the site and allowing visitors to experience this phenomenon viscerally.
This plaza and visitor center tell the story of the bridge’s design and construction, emerging as a new cultural and ecological hub at the bay’s edge. Once an afterthought to the automobile-dominated infrastructure adjacent to bridge toll booths, the site has been transformed into a place of arrival, a destination for meeting, and a frame for a new spectrum of views of, and from, this historic place. A new pavilion exhibits historic artifacts previously not accessible to the public, while the plaza displays a statue of bridge engineer Joseph Strauss, emphasizing his pivotal role in the conception of the bridge. Integrated didactic elements, including a model of the topography of the Marin Headlands and the bathymetry of the bay at the Golden Gate invite users to engage with the regional landscape in new tactile ways.
The layout of the plaza itself is a study in the marvel of the bridge’s engineering. The narrow proportions of the central plaza echo the slender scale and dimensions of the bridge towers, and an alternating pattern of light and dark pavers mirrors the shadows of the cables as they recede into the distance. The long transverse bands made up of narrow module pavers are reminiscent of the massive cables supporting the bridge, which are themselves composed of many narrow-gauge cables.
A new separated multi-modal trail network helps facilitate transit and circulation in and around the site, while providing new vistas for cyclists and pedestrians alike. Planting throughout the site is all native, propagated from seeds collected within the watershed of the site that were cultivated within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area nurseries before being transplanted on-site. The bridge is undeniably beautiful as an icon, but it is only when animated by visitors that it is truly majestic, becoming a part of the cultural landscape. This plaza and visitor center present a new outdoor living room for the city along with the first on-site center dedicated to telling the stories of the bridge and its creation.