Encompassing the renovation of a midcentury natatorium, designed by William Merchant, and the addition of a new clubhouse and connecting entry lobby, this project responds to the Mission District’s wide range of recreational and educational needs while strengthening its role as a rich cultural hub for community-building and interventional youth services. A joint venture with Paulett Taggart Architects, the buildings anchor a 3.4-acre city park at the southern terminus of the richly muraled Balmy Alley.
The rehabilitation of the natatorium removed nonconforming exterior additions. The colorful diptych mural “Primal Sea'' adorning its south facade — a community treasure painted by nearby Precita Eyes — was restored by the same mural arts organization. Inside, the rehabilitated pool features a movable bulkhead to support simultaneous pool use by both lap swimmers and young children and elders with mobility challenges. Reconfigured and modernized restrooms and locker rooms enhance functionality and accessibility. The natatorium’s canted western façade, obscured over time, was restored with a new glass curtainwall featuring a colorful mural by Bay Area artist Favianna Rodriguez that celebrates the Latinx diaspora of immigrants in the Mission.
The entry lobby supports use of the clubhouse after pool hours. Clad in colored phenolic panels and housing public restrooms and flexible multipurpose room, the new clubhouse defers to the historic natatorium in shape and scale and opens to a new courtyard connecting the structures. Completed during the pandemic and dedicated in March, the complex houses the City’s Requity and Community Hub programs to address economic disparities and educational inequities in the neighborhood.
Located in the Mission District, the transformation of recreational facilities at Garfield Square revitalizes a beloved mid-century neighborhood gem in an area vulnerable to change.