Helen Diller Civic Center

San Francisco, CA

Quick Facts

ClientCity of San Francisco
Time Frame2019
Design TeamMayer|Reed, Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture


Another Mayer|Reed project of significance, this time the challenge was to engrave a pair of massive, faceted granite panels to be placed in prominent positions – front and center – inside a beautifully designed public park located in front of San Francisco’s City Hall building.

The carving performed for this project is super deep (~0.50 inches); the carving uses a very delicate width with a 90-degree channel-cut edge and a flat bottom. This carving was achieved without using any chisels: it was all very carefully ground & cut with tiny diameter diamond rotary bits using small electric and pneumatic rotary grinders, which were exclusively held free-hand. Given the value of the stone, fabrication, shipping & the prohibitive cost of replacement, no errors or replacements could be factored into the project. No pressure, right? Just another day at the office.


The commission to carve two large granite stones for the Helen Diller Civic Center was offered to the Andrusko Group by the design team at Mayer|Reed.

The stone was sourced from Cold Spring Granite and quarried/finished by their talented team of stone fabricators at the historic Sierra White quarry in California to exacting dimensions and specifications. These were two very large, unique stones with no room for error in carving, handling, transport, or installation.

The design team at Mayer|Reed was seeking a letter form that would achieve an incredibly delicate and deep carving, this intricate carving was achieved by modifying an already super-thin derivative of Optima. The carving was done exclusively by free-hand technique, using a number of electrical and pneumatic rotary tools with small diameter, diamond grinding bits. The depth of the carving was critical to achieving the desired effect with shadow. The base of the letter form interior was, minimum, at least 0.50in up to 0.60in deep. The width of the letter form was often barely more than 0.25in – 0.32wide. The top exposed edge of each finished Alpha was finished with a small hand-held diamond file to create the small beveled edge for the completed finish.

After completion of the carving, the stones were crated up and shipped to the site in SF for installation by the General Contractor. The stones were coated with a specially formulated, clear satin-finish anti-graffiti compound to protect against vandalism, an important consideration given the very public & prominent nature of their placement at the site – the stones are situated in a public playground park setting situated less than a block away from of San Francisco’s City Hall building.

Other Projects