More than a world-class basketball arena, Chase Center is also a world-class entertainment venue.
The Golden State Warriors are playing its 2019-20 season in a new home, a $1.4 billion privately funded complex located in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco. Chase Center includes 3.2 acres of exterior public space that is part of Thrive City, a joint venture between the Warriors organization and health system Kaiser Permanente to promote health and wellness across the city and further activate the evolving Mission Bay district. SWA Group’s San Francisco office was charged with designing a space that would accommodate community events and still allow 18,000 people to flow smoothly through the space during basketball games, concerts, and events.
The success of the plaza, expressed Warriors’ owners, would be measured by the level with which the community engaged with the space 365 days a year, not just for basketball season or other large events.
“Our strategy was to design a park experience at Chase Center,” says SWA Group Principal René Bihan. Similar to the mission of Thrive City, the arena architecture, created by Kansas City-based Manica Architecture, encourages movement and discovery. So do the custom benches and planter/benches designed by SWA Group. The firm tapped into the skills of Landscape Forms and its Studio 431 custom group, which contributed product development, engineering, and manufacturing expertise to produce high-quality, beautifully detailed benches fitting for a high-visibility, custom branded environment like Chase Center.
“Think of the landscape as a toolbox for user experiences,” says Bihan. “We need different tools for different projects. Benches are like the crescent wrench in that toolbox; they’re adaptable and can be used for many things and in many ways.”
Bihan describes Chase Center as having two main entrances and no back doors. “We wanted street access to be equal in terms of accessibility to the complex,” he says. Wall-clad benches at the main entrances invite passersby to engage with the space. At the 3rd Street entrance, an eight-foot rise to the main plaza is layered with more wall-clad benches. All benches are constructed of slatted ipe wood and stainless steel, highly durable materials for outdoor 24/7 use.
The esplanade includes restaurants and retail spaces and, like the west plaza, will be used for a variety of events. Flexibility was a requirement. SWA Group’s solution was a series of movable and modular planter/benches in varying shapes and sizes. Pieces were designed to be easily picked up and moved with forklifts. Bihan thinks of the complex’s landscape like a theatre stage, and the movable planter/benches are part of that stage set. Flexible space programming also reinforces SWA Group’s desire for a park experience at the complex. The winding concourses, stairs, sculptures, and shops combine for an active space. “We looked at site elements similarly,” says Bihan. “We want people to find areas of discovery on the site. Both fixed and flexible furniture is part of that user engagement narrative.”