The Research Triangle Park

What we can learn from San Francisco

By Feb 08, 2017

POPOS_2

A title like that could reference a great and many things.  We have much to learn from a city that takes such progressive approaches to living and working, after all.  In this case, I see a great deal for us to model in terms of the way we treat space and the effect it has on bringing people together.

I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in the Bay Area a couple weeks back, first at a US2020 convening in Oakland, then connecting with like-minded partners and visiting POPOS in San Francisco.  What is a POPOS you wonder?  It’s a Privately Owned, Publicly Open Space that creates a number of potentialities for both interaction and use. 

Having been housed in The Frontier since before its public opening, I have always been intrigued by public spaces and the way they can help us collaborate, innovate, and create in new and exciting ways.  The Frontier itself has been a highly successful POPOS, and it lays a sound groundwork for how we understand what elements might work on a larger scale in our future Park Center project.

But a trip to San Francisco offers even more dynamic inspiration.  Thanks to requirements instituted over 30 years ago, new building in certain areas of the city requires both the consideration of these spaces as well as an inclusion of art in many construction efforts.  The San Francisco Planning Department highlights existing efforts in this vein on their website.

In the flesh though, what it creates is a more functional, more aesthetically pleasing urban center – one that helped me envision a number of uses for our more laid back atmosphere here in North Carolina.

POPOS_4In all, I visited seven different POPOS in the city (as well as the phenomenal California Academy of Sciences).  Some were tiny outdoor spaces that felt like a city-planned park, others tucked inside the first floor of the buildings that inspired their creation. 

The best amongst them, at least in terms of our learning and application here, was Yerba Buena Gardens.  The space offered outdoor spots for diners of local eateries, a great waterfall that created a peaceful place to relax, and a ton of open space for concerts, performances, and the like.  For the first time, I could see Park Center come to life.  It left a powerful impression on me that will create inspiration and motivation as we move forward with our own plans.

There were elements of others that provided inspiration as well.  There’s something about the idea of a space that is inclusive of all, accessible to the masses, and capable of sparking creative thought that just feels right.  I’m a lucky one to make it a part of my everyday work to be driven by such ideas.