Icons at Risk

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San Francisco's Parkmerced

Credit: The Cultural Landscape Foundation


Location: San Francisco

Architect: Leonard Schultze

Landscape ­designer: Thomas D. Church

Year: Begun 1941

Planned and developed by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. as family housing, the community known as Parkmerced was a collaboration between architect Leonard Schultze and renowned landscape designer Thomas D. Church, a  founder of the California school of architecture and landscape. Church mainly designed private gardens, and the large-scale Parkmerced development was a departure for him. The urban mix of tower blocks and townhouses, set amid courtyards and curved pathways, counts as one of the most beautifully organized neighborhoods in the nation. San Francisco State University and the Stellar ­Management development group have purchased portions of the site—listed by the Washington, D.C.-based Cultural Landscape Foundation as a threatened landscape of national importance—and plan to demolish its buildings, clearing the way for new housing. The owners have stated that these new buildings will be among the country's greenest in terms of energy conservation, but detractors see irrevocable damage to the existing landscape, one of Church's few remaining mature public works.

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