Permanent Installation

The Commons

Headlands Center for the Arts

Fueled by program and audience growth, Headlands enhanced the campus and services to the public with The Commons, a new outdoor space designed to enhance the Headlands experience. The Commons opened in September 2017.

The $1.8 million project—sited between and immediately surrounding Headlands’ two main buildings—reimagined an unpaved parking lot and gravel pathway as a thoughtfully designed outdoor space for art and everyday use. The Commons expands services for artists and visitors with more than 3,000 square feet of new programming space; three newly commissioned permanent artworks; and additional places to gather, relax, and enjoy the area’s renowned natural beauty. The design includes a central plaza, a pedestrian walkway that connects the two main public buildings, and a redesign of the main entryway that is more welcoming and accessible.

Envisioned in partnership with Bay Area-based CMG Landscape Architecture—whose past and current projects include SFMOMA’s rooftop sculpture garden, the Moscone Center expansion, and the redevelopment of Treasure Island as a public art destination—The Commons’ site-appropriate design honors Headlands’ sensitive natural setting and unique history as a former military base. The central plaza includes a concrete overlook and series of terraces that reference military bunkers and shape views toward the nearby Rodeo Lagoon watershed and Gerbode Valley. Eucalyptus and native plants such as lupines, Wyethia, California poppy, and assorted grasses—grown in the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy’s nursery—frame the smaller spaces within The Commons.

In keeping with Headlands’ rich legacy of commissioning artists to rehabilitate and steward our campus, The Commons incorporates three new permanent outdoor artworks:

Based on the tradition of Kintsugi or “golden joinery”—the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with lacquer and powdered gold, silver, or platinum—Ball-Nogues Studio revitalized the original cracked concrete driveway at Headlands to become Welcome Terrace East & West (2017). The Los Angeles-based artists and designers, whose work is included in the collections of MoMA, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, collaborated closely with the architect to reshape the fragments, located near the front entry of each of the main buildings, and reassemble them using terrazzo mortar arranged into brightly colored stripes that celebrate repair as part of the history of the site, rather than something to disguise.

Created by Rotterdam-based designer Chris KabelWall Space (2017) is a sculptural installation that turns Headlands’ building façade into a canvas for commissioned texts. Hidden armature, inspired by historical movie theater marquees, features a modular lettering system rendered in transparent metal mesh, which responds to changing light conditions and makes the text readable to viewers as a cast shadow. For the inaugural installation, which will change over the course of the year, Headlands commissioned San Francisco-based writer Claudia La Rocco (Headlands Artist in Residence, 2013) to curate texts from Wendy Rose and Tongo Eisen-Martin, poets whom La Rocco describes as “formally dazzling and politically fierce.” Wall Space launched with a new poem by Rose relating to her Hopi and Miwok ancestry and the Native American history of the Marin Headlands.

A functional sculpture conceived by San Francisco-based artist Nathan LynchDoubledrink (2017) is a ceramic drinking fountain designed for two people to drink simultaneously while looking each other in the eye. “Bending over to drink is awkward and intimate, and an incredibly symbolic way to begin a conversation,” says Lynch. The work continues his ongoing interest in political conflict and environmental issues by heightening the importance of sharing water as a limited natural resource and celebrating its power to bring friends and strangers together for a brief moment.