The Yerba Buena Gardens are the result of the revitalization of a seedy area around Mission Street that started with the construction of the Moscone convention center. Built on top of the convention center, the gardens have become the center of a lively recreational and entertainment area.
The construction in 1981 of the Moscone Center, the city’s largest convention center, was the catalyst for ambitious plans by the Redevelopment Authority to revitalize one of the city’s most dilapidated areas. The plans, known as the Yerba Buena project, envisioned an area with a mixture of gardens, hotels, museums, shops and restaurants. It would also include a top-notch arts venue for the citizens of San Francisco.
The whole area now known as the Yerba Buena Gardens was completed in two phases. The first one, which encompasses a block bounded by Third, Fourth, Mission and Howard Streets completed in 1993 and the second one, bounded by Third, Fourth, Howard and Folsom Streets opened in 1998. Both blocks are connected by a pedestrian bridge over Howard Street.
Yerba Buena Esplanade
The original block, built on top of Moscone North, comprises the Yerba Buena Esplanade, the Metreon (an entertainment and shopping complex) and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
The esplanade is essentially a large green space with several small gardens, often used by the office workers to relax during breaks. There’s also a colorful terraced garden, known as the sister cities garden. The garden features plants from San Francisco’s thirteen sister cities around the world.
From the terrace, a waterfall flows into a small pool at the esplanade level. The waterfall hides a memorial dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. Behind the water curtain you find excerpts from Martin Luther King’s speeches, etched in glass panels.
Rooftop at Yerba Buena Gardens
The second block, on top of Moscone North, is known as the Rooftop at Yerba Buena Gardens. This paved area is mostly oriented towards children with a large playground, a historic hand-carved carousel, a labyrinth made of hedges, the Children’s Creativity Museum, an outdoor amphitheater, an ice rink and a bowling center.
Moscone Center is San Francisco’s largest convention center with more than two million square feet or almost 200,000 square meters of building area with six exhibit halls in three buildings. Thanks to the vision of city authorities, the convention center has become the basis for a lively recreational area instead of a monumental obstacle in the center of San Francisco.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)
The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts consists of two landmark buildings – the Galleries and Forum Building and the Theater, both earning awards for their innovative design.
The Galleries and Forum Building was the first major U.S. architectural commission for Japanese architect, Fumihiko Maki, who won the coveted 1993 Pritzker Prize for excellence in his field.
The Theater, designed by architect James Stewart Polshek, features an exterior covered with aluminum panels that change with the San Francisco sunlight.