Lands End Lookout opens Saturday
The Lands End Lookout, a combination visitor center, cafe and gift shop at the northern end of Ocean Beach, officially opened Saturday.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Lookout hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony, food, music, and walks highlighting the history, pre-history and natural setting of the Lands End area in the Outer Richmond overlooking the ruins of Sutro Baths.
A collaborative effort by the National Parks Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the Lands End Lookout Visitor Center seems poised to make the northern end of Ocean Beach more attractive to tourists and locals alike. Adjacent to the large Lands End parking lot, the new building boasts a cafe operated by the Cliff House, gifts related to the Lands End and Ocean Beach area, displays explaining the history and environment of Lands End, and sweeping views that visitors now can enjoy even when the wind whips over the seaside cliffs.
That wind is just one of the challenges architects faced when designing the new 4,150-square-foot structure. The Lookout was made to stand up to corrosively salty air, yet be sensitive to natural and cultural history including not just the historical period from the 1800s to the 1960s, but also the earlier use by the Yelamu Ohlone people — all while presenting an appearance that fits with the surrounding area and doesn’t block the views enjoyed by nearby residents.
The result is a combination of concrete, glass and sturdy wood that makes the Lookout “part of a seamless whole” at Lands End, said Phoebe Schenker of EHDD Architecture.
“There are so many secrets and hidden treasures in this part of the [Golden Gate National Recreation Area],” Schenker said. “It’s really unique for a national park to be so urban.”
Architecture buffs will notice in the Lookout an echo of another EHDD project from years past, Sonoma County’s Sea Ranch, where angular, faceted buildings also perch in a wooded seaside setting.
NPS Curator Bob Holloway, formerly a GGNRA ranger who said he worked at Lands End for many years, pointed out that some of the statues at the new facility are “copies of copies.” When Adolph Sutro built his mansion and gardens at what is now Sutro Heights Park in the 1800s, he had copies of European sculptures installed. Years later, the NPS made copies of those copies and put them in storage, never having a use for them until the Lookout was built.
Sutro’s own copy of a statue of the Roman goddess Diana stands in one corner of the visitor center and a replica statue of a stag looks over the entry courtyard, resting in a bed of oyster shells unearthed from the trash heaps of food shacks that once stood nearby. But Holloway said one of his favorite features of the Lookout is far less visible: a “Cail-O-Scope,” a coin-operated amusement on loan from the Musee Mecanique, which once occupied a space below the Cliff House. For a quarter, the Cail-O-Scope shows visitors historic images of Lands End, Sutro Baths and other historic attractions from the area.
The Lands End Lookout Visitor Center was largely funded by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman fund, with further funding from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and the Lisa ad Douglas Goldman Fund. In addition to design by EHDD Architecture, the visitor center was built with landscape architecture by Surface Design and general contracting by Plant Construction.
The Lookout will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This article has been modified to update the website of the Musee Mecanique.