The 25-year-old Yerba Buena Center for the Arts was originally founded as an arts-focused community center and campus with a signature Gallery building by Maki and Associates and Theater by Polshek Partnership. SITELAB urban studio developed a holistic vision for the public spaces to invite people in, and help broadcast the organization’s mission of being a “creative home for civic action”.
The team developed a framework to guide YBCA through future updates by defining design priorities and experiences for each space, short and long-term tactics, and implementation/evaluation guidelines. The team immersed into a comprehensive analysis process involving conversations with the core management team, facilitating an all-staff retreat, site documentation, attending events, and extensive case study research to further understand the organization and context. This research was synthesized into core drivers and opportunities that revealed focus areas and clear experience goals for interventions.
This multifaceted process led to a vision for an “Everyday Festival,” a collection of complementary uses and spaces in the Gallery, Theater, and surrounding exterior areas that are inclusive, interactive, provocative, and fun. Intervention concepts ranged from radical placemaking transformations of public outdoor space, to subtle but effective strategies like signage, lighting, and music.
As an initial step towards the overall vision, SITELAB, in collaboration with Studio PLOW, transformed the Gallery Lobby and Entry into a new neighborhood “living room” that captures the dynamism of activities at YBCA. Interventions include adjustments to the reception desk for improved user interaction, realigning circulation, the replacement of fin walls with a new retail corner, creating human-scaled subzones in the open lobby space, and making a more welcoming atmosphere with wood wall cladding, soft seating, rugs, and plants. The transformed space strongly signals YBCA’s mission to the public, respects the original architecture, and makes a new valued place for San Francisco.