Sigmund Stern Grove

1998-2005 • San Francisco, CA

This 64-acre linear public park was developed as a free concert venue by the City of San Francisco and the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, with a naturally sloped meadow at one end serving as an outdoor amphitheater. In 1998, Halprin was hired to develop a master plan for the landscape that would reinvigorate the park. The defining characteristic of the large-scale rehabilitation is the redesigned amphitheater. Halprin built a series of low grass terraces along the natural slope, fronted by stepped granite retaining walls that serve as benches and also mitigate erosion on the hillside. The venue provides seating for more than 4,000 people.

As with many of Halprin’s later works, detailed instructions for care and improvements were prepared as part of the project. At this late stage in his career, Halprin was already considering his legacy and the future of his built works. Therefore, the Master Plan developed by the Office of Lawrence Halprin for Sigmund Stern Grove provides long-range planning and maintenance guidance. Care for the park is stewarded by both the San Francisco Recreation & Parks department and the Stern Grove Festival Association, and Halprin’s design remains in good condition.

Dancers at Stern Grove

While Halprin’s vision for the park is outlined in the Master Plan, it is not clearly articulated to the public. San Francisco Recreation & Parks does not include a history of the development of the park on its website, nor do they include onsite interpretation that outlines Halprin’s role. Furthermore, the Trocadero Inn, a building within the Park, is considered by the City of San Francisco to be a historic resource and is therefore subject to review when improvements are proposed, while it does not appear that the other park features have been assessed in the same way. However, the Stern Grove Festival Association does outline the park renovation in the “history” section of their website, including the initial vision, project implementation, a full list of the project team, and a short bio for Halprin, whom they refer to as ‘The Visionary.’



Design Team

Andrew Sullivan (senior landscape architect)
QuarryHouse, Inc. (stonemasons)
Hamilton + Aitken (architects)
Vance Brown (general contractor)


Condition Scale Condition: A
Well maintained

Info Scale Visibility: C
Casual Mention of Halprin  


Info ScaleNational Register of Historic Places

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  • 19th Ave & Sloat Blvd
    San Francisco, CA 94132

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Caitlin Atkinson
Atkinson grew up in Nevada City, California, where the trees, mountains, and rivers instilled in her a love of all things natural. She studied photography at the California College of Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her photographs have appeared in magazines, books, and exhibitions in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. When not photographing, you can find her in the garden and enjoying the outdoors.