2022 AIA CA urban DESIGN AWARDS

merit award

Willie "Woo Woo" Wong Playground

Architect: CMG Landscape Architects with Jensen Architects

Project Location: San Francisco, California

Photographer: Bruce Damonte

For the comprehensive renovation of this beloved playground, the design team, led by CMG Landscape Architects, looked to the Chinatown community as the authority on its historical importance and changing purpose. Feedback from multilingual surveys and workshops revealed that open play areas, sheltered outdoor space, a renovated clubhouse, and features that reflect Chinese culture were top priorities. The resulting design merges building and landscape, creating an accessible, multi-level community hub that celebrates Chinatown’s rich history.

“Land is very scarce in San Francisco and for this design team to make an “oasis” for children in a concrete jungle is a game changer. It’s a complex urban project--how it handles the relationship between the sidewalk and the internal parts of the building and the building envelope is very clever. It’s well-executed and offers a variety of experiences. Proof of its success is that it’s built and being used. It’s a joyful and playful space.”

2022 Urban Design Awards Jury

Opened in 1927, Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground serves as the only space dedicated to active outdoor recreation in San Francisco’s Chinatown. For the remodel of this beloved neighborhood space, the design team looked to the Chinatown community as the undisputed authority on the park’s historical importance and changing purpose. Feedback from multilingual surveys, workshops, and meetings revealed that open play areas, sheltered outdoor space, a renovated clubhouse, and features that reflect Chinese culture were top community priorities. Improving access to the park’s three levels also was critical. Guided by the community’s aspirations, the resulting design both celebrates the park’s cultural significance and rejuvenates the neighborhood with a flexible, multi-use space that is ready for another century of service.

Physically bound by buildings, the park makes the most of its half-acre site, offering spaces for all ages and abilities with three levels — upper courts, middle playground, and lower clubhouse. The upper level is expanded and unified with accessible pathways, stairs, and ramps, that connect the basketball courts and net sports to the lower playground. The opened-up clubhouse — now a flexible indoor plaza — links to the historic street below with a stadium stair and new storefront windows. The interior clubhouse is pared back and painted white, except for a mural by artist, Julie Chang, composed of classic Chinese symbols, “woven” on a grid of concrete blocks. Since reopening in February 2021, this park has already been re-established as an active center of community life — a much-needed place for recreation, wellness, learning, and social connection.

AIA California
AIA California
Celebrating over 75 years of service, the AIA California actively promotes the value of design and advocates for the architectural profession. AIA CA is an association of 11,000 dedicated and passionate members who share a commitment to design excellence and livability in California’s natural and built environments.

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