This project replaces the popular but deteriorated public pool facility in Larsen Park with a new indoor pool for recreation and competitive use. The building is sited and designed for its unique conditions: a heavily used public facility located in a public park that fronts a major vehicular thoroughfare on one side and residential neighborhood on the other.

Larsen Park is an underutilized, but significant green space in the Sunset District of San Francisco. To maximize open space and retain mature trees the new indoor pool facility is designed as a compact series of forms at the southern end of the park. The building nestles into the sloped park landscape at the north and has expansive windows on the south taking advantage of the views of Stern Grove.

The building, a series of simple yet monumental interlocking forms, is made of architecturally exposed cast-in-place concrete and aluminum curtain wall system; sustainable materials selected for their durability and suitability for a pool and a park setting. The curtain wall pattern is carefully articulated to create a contrast to the monumental concrete forms. Panels of hand-crafted ceramic tiles add complexity to the exterior walls, allowing the walls to read both as large planes and as flanked frames that turn around the building further enhancing its volume.

The support functions are housed in the lower building form and the natatorium is housed in the taller form. The forms are set on a plinth that lends clarity to the interlocking forms. The support building wall extends along 19th Avenue to provide a strong architectural presence and shelter the courtyard from the noise and traffic of 19th Avenue. The courtyard and light-filled entry welcome visitors off of the quieter Wawona Street. The courtyard, which provides outdoor space for daily use, as well as meets and special events, enjoys a southern sun exposure and views of Stern Grove.

The main space of the building, the natatorium, offers natural, diffused light and windows framing the surrounding majestic views of the park setting. Roof monitors and a sunscreen contribute to the quality of the natural light. Cedar wood slats over acoustical material create a comfortable environment for the swimmers and hand-crafted ceramic tiles in a bold blue color create an enclosure for the pool equipment.

The sustainable strategies began with the concept: we oriented the building to the south were large south facing windows allow sunlight/heat into the building. The natatorium has windows on four sides and roof monitors with clerestory windows resulting in a space with no need for artificial light during daylight hours. The option for natural ventilation on temperate days is provided by low operable windows for intake and high windows for exhaust. Solar hot water panels on the roof, along with excess heat from the dehumidifier, provide hot water for the pool. The concrete contains fly ash to reduce the quantity of cement required; exposing the concrete eliminates the need for additional finishes or cladding.


Opened: 2008

Cost: $12.7 million

Aquatic space: 16,400 square feet

Dream amenities: A 4,725 square foot, eight (8) lane x 25 yard multipurpose pool with deck level gutter and water depths ranging from 3’6” to 9’3”


  • Dream Designer: Mark Cavagnero Associates with Paulett Taggart Architects
  • Aquatic Designer: Aquatic Design Group
  • Landscaping: Cliff Lowe Associates
  • Civil Engineers: Telamon Engineering Consultants
  • Structural Engineers: Bello and Associates
  • Mechanical Engineers: SJ Engineers
  • Electrical Engineers: FW Associates
  • Lighting: Auerbach Glasow French
  • Acoustics: Charles Salter Associates
  • Cost: M Lee Corp.
  • General Contactor: West Bay Builders
  • Photography:Tim Griffith Photographer


  • KDI Paragon Aquatics: Water polo competition equipment, grab rails
  • Lochinvar: Heaters
  • Recreonics, United Industries: Filters
  • Spectrum Products: ADA lift
  • US Filter Stranco: Chemical control