Levi’s Plaza

1979-82 • San Francisco, CA

Intended to provide a daytime campus for lunching and relaxation, this park was dedicated to “the employees of Levi Strauss” in 1982. Conceived as separate but complementary landscapes, Halprin’s design includes two parks that are connected via a crosswalk across a two-lane street. A poured concrete plaza accented with red brick, known as the “hard” park, is enclosed by office buildings for Levi Strauss & Co. The plaza is furnished with benches, concrete planters, and a round pavilion, and features an elaborate water garden with a rough granite fountain at its center.

The paving patterns of the “hard” park continue into the crosswalk, before opening onto the “soft” park, comprised of a pastoral lawn with soft grassy knolls, curvilinear paths, and a meandering artificial stream. Although Levi’s Plaza is situated along the heavily trafficked Embarcadero, it is quiet and calm, sheltered by the office buildings and a hedge along its eastern boundary.

Halprin’s offices were located next door to Levi’s Plaza. He would walk through the park daily and was regularly consulted by the staff on maintenance and vegetation management decisions. This informal consultation resulted in a well-maintained and cohesive landscape for more than a quarter century – a unique situation for any civic commission by Halprin.

Conceptual sketch for Levi’s

Since Halprin’s death, it is unclear to what extent current management decisions incorporate and respect his original design intent. While some improvements are positive, such as ongoing maintenance of the water gardens and fountains, others do not appear to be in keeping with the original design intent. For example, the park appears to be undergoing extensive replanting, and some of the selected vegetation shows a lack of understanding of Halprin’s overall vision. A vegetation management plan that incorporates Halprin’s original intent, while addressing contemporary concerns, would insure that present-day decisions do not compromise Halprin’s significant design. 

Recent plantings at Levi’s park show a lack of understanding with regards to original design and intent (Photo by Charles A. Birnbaum, 2016)

Furthermore, while Halprin’s involvement at Levi’s Plaza is well documented online and in the Levi’s & Co. archives, there does not appear to be any onsite interpretation. This landscape was a personal endeavor for Halprin, one that grew out of his relationship with the Haas family (heirs to the Levi’s fortune) and serves as an excellent example of landscape patronage to this day. Discreet onsite interpretive materials should be considered. 



Design Team

William Lang (senior associate)
HOK (architects)
Gensler (architects)


Condition Scale Condition: B
Good, but needs work 

Info Scale Visibility: B
Moderate discussion of Halprin    


Info ScaleNational Register of Historic Places

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Featured Photographer

Marion Brenner
Brenner’s garden and landscape photographs have been published in many notable books and magazines, including Landscape Architecture Magazine, Dwell, and Sunset. In 1992, she collaborated on a series of cards featuring plants used to treat cancer. In 2002, she was the subject of a one-person show, entitled The Subtle Life of Plants and People, at the Berkeley Art Museum. Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Berkeley Art Museum.