Collaborating to Preserve a Public Treasure: The Rehabilitation of Coit Tower and Its WPA-Era Murals
A condition assessment was initiated in 2012 focusing and weatherproofing and accessibility to support the ongoing maintenance of the building and artwork. A majority of the murals and frescoes are an integral part of the building, and the condition of the murals is directly affected by the condition of the building. The design team explored the dynamic between the building and artwork and provided prioritized recommendations for repair and upgrade. After issuance of the recommendations, the City initially set aside $1.5 million for the rehabilitation work and additional grant funding was eventually secured. Construction began in 2012 with installation of new roofing followed by a larger restoration effort starting in 2013 that required the building to close to the public for a six month period. During this period construction and conservation crews overlapped tasks to minimize the closure of this public resource.
The rehabilitation project was significant for blending of art and architecture, and the successful collaboration between two lead City agencies, the San Francisco Public Arts Commission and the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. Input and oversight was also provided by the city’s Public Works, Planning and Transportation (MTA) departments in addition to public groups and an incoming concessionaire to run daily building operations. Leaks at the interior have been a problem throughout the building’s history, and teamwork between agencies and project consultants was integral to identifying potential water infiltration sources and developing strategies for repair. A mural protection plan specific for the scope of construction work was developed and implemented by the entire team. During construction it was necessary to perform abatement and repair tasks in mural spaces, and design practical protection measures for the interior artwork that would not impede the effectiveness of repair work. It was important to incorporate code-necessitated upgrades in a sensitive manner that does not detract from the building’s historic features.