After several years of fundraising, planning, and design, and over one year of construction, the Elinor Friend Playground at the San Francisco Zoo is ready for its grand re-opening. As part of The Americas Campaign capital campaign chaired by Dianne Taube, this $3.2 million project has been made possible in large part by the Friend Family and other generous donors. Additional naming rights within the Playground are still available at this time, totaling approximately $1 million. This 36,000-square-foot, state-of-the art project is sure to ignite the imaginations of the 300,000 children of all ages and abilities who visit the Zoo each year.
“From day one, it has been our priority to create a play space that enables all Zoo visitors—including those with visual, physical, or cognitive disabilities—to connect with nature while engaging in active play,”said San Francisco Zoological Society President Tanya M. Peterson. “We are overjoyed with the outcome and so appreciative of everyone who made this visionary playground possible.”
The new playground is modeled after three distinct bio-regions, which take their themes from specific ecosystems and appeal to distinct age groups: a River Play Area for toddlers (6 months – 2 years), a Polar Zone exploration space for pre-schoolers (2-5 years), and a Banyan Tree climbing structure for pre-teens (5-12 years). Along with striking natural forms, the architecture integrates a wide range of materials and textures in glorious detail that mimic those found in nature and encourage curiosity among young explorers. As an example, a charming frog sculpture in the River Play Area acts as a symbol of the Zoo’s mission to connect people with wildlife, inspire caring for nature, and advance conservation action. In support of this mission, a portion of the funds raised for the playground will go toward the Zoo’s Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog Conservation Program.*
Crawling through a beaver dam, sliding down an iceberg, or swinging through a tree, all children share opportunities for unique wildlife adventures, take age-appropriate risks, and immerse themselves in naturalistic environments. Each of the play structures is built with fully compliant ADA accessibility features to accommodate children with physical and mental disabilities, with a strong emphasis on exploration and adventure encouraged for all.
In partnership with the Mayor’s Office on Disability, the unique design of the Playground is the work of Scientific Art Studio, a multi-faceted design and fabrication facility located in Richmond, California. Led by Founder and Creative Director Ron Holthuysen, the Zoo’s Playground team includes artists and skilled craftspeople with experience in every material and technique imaginable, in particular reclaimed redwood tree trunks, sculptural cement composite on steel frames, woven rope, and even living vegetation. “Our goal was to create a playground where children lose themselves in undirected play, where the time whizzes by and kids do not want to leave,” said Holthuysen. “Through our very close collaboration with the Zoo and the city of San Francisco, we are confident that we met that goal.” Scientific Art Studio has produced a wide variety of unique and successful artistic creations, including the Coca Cola Fan Lot at AT&T Park and Lookout Cove at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. The contracting work on the project was done by Rudolph Commercial Interiors, Inc. (RCI), located in Emeryville, California.
Near the entrance to the Fisher Family Children’s Zoo and adjacent to the expansive Playfield Lawn, the Playground is located at the historic heart of the San Francisco Zoo. A natural extension of the Zoo’s Wellness Initiative, which focuses on the quality of life for all Zoo animals and visitors, the Playground will encourage movement and creativity for its guests and provide an excellent value to Zoo Members, who receive free admission each day of the year.
Playground Public Grand Re-Opening: November 24, 11:00 am
Playground Members Only Reception: November 24, 9:00 – 11:00 am
Fee: Access to the Playground is free with paid Zoo admission
SF Zoo hours: Open 365 days; 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Fun Facts about SF Zoo’s Playground project, but who’s counting?
- 36,000 square foot one-of-a-kind new playground to be unveiled on November 19, 2013 300,000 children visit SF Zoo each year
- $3.2 million has been generously donated to redesign and rebuild the historic Elinor Friend Playground, led by Capital Campaign Chair Dianne Taube and the Friend Family
- $1 million in Playground naming opportunities still available in this remarkable project 24 years have passed since the Playground was last updated.
- 12 months of fabrication and installation brought the model to life.
- 26,000 pounds of structural steel was used to create the play areas.
- 12,000 square feet of custom-mixed, poured resilient rubber ensures soft landings for all. 6,500 bags of Gunite established the undercoat of the Polar Zone and Banyan Tree.
- 90 cubic yards of concrete were used to secure the footings below the structures.
- 18 pallets of white terrazzo make up the hand-sculpted Polar Zone surface.
- .5 tons of reclaimed wood from fallen redwood trees were used in the River Play Area. 3 distinct bio-regions are represented.
- 1 truly unique Playground!