HARVEY MILK PLAZA: SYMBOL OF HOPE AND RESISTANCE
“The American Dream begins in neighborhoods.”
The most important points of these neighborhoods that started the American Dream are public spaces where people can come together. These areas, where all kinds of sharing take place in daily life, and where power and resistance come to life when they come together at important moments, mean a lot for urban memory as well.
Activist Harvey Milk was one of the most important actors in the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the rights to work, housing and use of public space in San Francisco in 1978. Milk, the first openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was a symbol of the LGBTI+ resistance that began in Castro, where he lived, and spread throughout the country. As Milk’s memory continues to live on in the memories, he is also physically present at the Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco.
The entrance area for the Castro Trolley Station, designed by Reid & Tarics Associates in the 1970s, is renamed Harvey Milk Plaza in 1979 after Milk’s death. The importance of the area, where a huge rainbow flag, symbolizing hope and visibility, has been flying since 1997, comes not from its architecture, but from the legendary actions, marches and vigils that take place there. Although the square was not designed for the memory of Harvey Milk, the Unelected Governor of Castro Street, or for the LGBTI+ community, it remains a symbol of resistance and hope in the collective memory of the region to this day.
The winning project of a project competition for the renovation of the square, first held in 2006, was not implemented for technical and economic reasons. In the second competition announced in 2017, SWA Groupit was decided to implement the un project. Founded in 2016 Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza thanks to the contributions of his platform, the entire decision process took place with open meetings attended by the residents of the neighborhood. Thanks to this inclusive process, consensus was reached on the unique and unusual project that fits the identity of Milk, at the request of the locals. Their vision, which emerged as a result of the meetings, can be summarized as follows: To create a safe meeting space with increased accessibility by keeping the memory of Harvey Milk.
SWA Group will cooperate with different institutions for stages such as visual communication, user experience, security and lighting during the project implementation process. The use of green space will also be increased in the project, in which the use of the square as a gathering area for the LGBTI+ community will be emphasized. It is aimed to keep Milk’s vision of “equality for everyone everywhere” alive in the area where 11 trees will be planted, symbolizing the 11 months that Harvey Milk spent on the San Francisco Supervisory Board. The project, whose first phase is planned to be completed in 2022, follows a Harvey Milk promise written on the neon sign that has been in the area since 2017: Hope will never be silent.