Lands End Lookout – A Great Addition to SF

This past weekend San Francisco’s new 4000 sqft Lands End visitor’s center opened. Eager to check out this project I stopped by to gauge its success. The original underutilized plot of land was nestled alongside Point Lobos Road a few hundred feet from the landmark Louis’ Restaurant. The new center fits in perfectly and offers a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean, Sutro Bath ruins and the current incarnation of the Cliff House.

Designed by San Francisco’s EHDD Architecture, the location includes restrooms, water fountains, a gift shop, food service and educational exhibits. Given that the weather can be a bit brutal in this area, it’s a great place to take a break, have a snack and learn about local history.

As with any design, there are always a few flaws out of the gate while others take a few months to surface. On average though, this project was money well spent. For those with an eye towards design, I’ve added some commentary to the pictures below.

Not so successful items shown above (described clockwise):

The landscaping leaves a bit to be desired as 1. Seedlings were planted and will take a while to fill in and 2. There aren’t sufficient barriers for pets and people to prevent them from walking on the new plantings. The layout is also a bit too artistic, mimicking the building’s sightlines rather than the surroundings. I would have appreciated more a more natural scape to blend in and keep the focus on the view rather than the plot of land.

The recycling bin instructions are difficult to interpret. Traditionally in SF we recycle plastics, metals and paper (blue bin) and then we compost food waste (green bin). However in the café area paper service items, napkins and some utensils can be composted too. There are written English descriptions, but no iconography for simple and quick decisions or for non-English speakers.

Merchandising displays are combined with educational exhibits. This makes it difficult to read displays when people are shopping and blocking the panels. Overall isle space was tight even for the moderate crowds, but hopefully time will solve that issue. Two large video monitors are placed too high up on the wall making you arch your head up to watch all while blocking the limited paths of shoppers.

Lighting in the snack bar area was dim at best. With bright clerestory windows and a dark chalk board, the contrast made it difficult to read the menu. A few spot lights would take care of this problem.

Successful items shown above (described below clockwise):

The buildings’ overall design and construction was successful. It’s obvious that care was taken in the design and planning of this new structure. Colors and materials all blended well with the surroundings. The bright orange and grellow (green/yellow) contemporary highlights subtly punctuate the earthy materials. Sustainable features include use of native materials, solar energy, LED lighting, rainwater capture and low-flow fixtures. Passive cooling and flyash concrete round out the environmental savings.

Accessibility was easy accomplished including a water spigot for pets.

The cash wrap counter had a concealed door that swung out when needed. It is an effective way to keep continuity in the design yet provide full functionality.

Redwood details are simple and efficient such as this slatted grill covering vents for passive cooling. Repairs should be easy in the future.

The signage throughout was simple and clear

A sliding window doubles as natural ventilation and external café access.

Even the napkin holders relate to the area by holding local images.

Here are a few more shots:

The view from the back towards the ocean

Replica of Sutro Heights stone guardian now gracing the visitor center

Images burned into corrugated cardboard ceiling panels, exterior landscaping

Panoramic view of the Pacific and the Sutro Bath Ruins

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