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October 18, 2012

Locals headed for a trek on the Lands End trail are stumbling upon the newest marvel within Golden Gate National Park while Bay Area architects and conservationists have eagerly anticipated its recent opening. The Lands End Lookout and visitor’s center, perched 100 feet above the ruins of the historic Sutro baths, is drawing in spectators seeking to see the natural setting from a fresh and modernist perspective.

Nestled along the shoreline and offering a panoramic, 30-mile vantage of the rugged coastline, the building by Phoebe Schenker of the green design firm EHDD melds the best of low slung modernism with highbrow reductionism.

Flawlessly cool and understated, the wood trim and mid-century inspired fixtures, floor to ceiling glass, and pale gray concrete walls achieve a sublime solution to the natural revitalization and enhancement of Lands End—an ongoing effort by benefactors working along with the Park Conservancy. Careful attention has been paid to blending in with the use of materials, which should age gracefully and complement with the restored landscape.
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The slab walls and angular partitions frame, rather than distract, from the spectacularly serene marine setting—squawking seabirds overhead, joggers and hikers lounging around, churning water rising up and slapping the cliffs. And now, firmly established, the Lands End Lookout, quietly makes its debut as a beachy clean landmark.
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Architect Phoebe Schenker and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservatory’s Robert Lieber address a tour group in the courtyard on the concrete steps behind the center. “Here at Lands End, you are at the edge of the continent where the intersection of people and natural forces continues to change this wild landscape as they have for thousands of years,” says one of the project’s designers.
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A tour and talk wound its way to the back of the concrete slab tile building where an elongated pathway sits at the edge of the ruins of the Sutro Baths and crashing waves 100 feet below.
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The interior functions as a retail space and educational resource and features reclaimed wood accents.
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Oversized wood beams with marine silhouettes grace the ceiling of the center. An array of art and images of old and new—such as these archival photos of the Cliff House and Seal Rock—hangs on the walls.
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Robert Lieber with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy was intregally involved in maintaining the natural integrity of the project. Largely a volunteer effort from the start, it was made by possible by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and considered a “major milestone achievement in the ongoing revitalization of Lands End.” The Conservancy has carried out much of the restoration, including improving the popular coastal trails.
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Visitors who are filing into the center on a Saturday afternoon peruse racks of books on California’s natural history and habitat, read the educational kiosks and eye the reproduction Sutro Bath ad posters. The center seems to be attracting people of every age as well as tourist and local alike. Similar to the Warming Hut at the Marina Green, the architecture and literature seems to draw you in to take a time out to take stock in the surroundings.
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Take a detour into the Lookout Café to splurge on a treat in the sleek coffee nook.
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lands end exterior
Flawlessly cool and understated, the wood trim and mid-century inspired fixtures, floor to ceiling glass, and pale gray concrete walls achieve a sublime solution to the natural revitalization and enhancement of Lands End—an ongoing effort by benefactors working along with the Park Conservancy. Careful attention has been paid to blending in with the use of materials, which should age gracefully and complement with the restored landscape.

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