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Alcatraz Island, which is a designated National Historic Landmark District, is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area administered by the National Park Service. For over 90 years, Alcatraz Island has been dominated by the reinforced concrete Cell House and together, the island and the prison are one of the most prominent and important landmarks in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Cell House also receives close to 1 million visitors a year. Acting proactively in the mid-nineties, the Park Service and its non-profit arm, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy along with the Blue and Gold Fleet (a park partner), sought a solution for providing access to its main entrance to individuals with disabilities. Up to that point, disabled visitors had to enter the building from a remote side entrance because of an eight inch step at the front entrance. The park service initially supported a two ramp solution at the front entrance because they wanted to leave in tact the heavily worn plaza that was important historic fabric. Lerner + Associates proposed a universal design solution that essentially warped the plaza at the entrance by installing a semicircular concrete walkway (1:23 slope) that led to a semi-circular level landing at the entrance. A slip sheet was first applied over the existing concrete to protect it in the event the new concrete was ever removed (a reversible design solution). To help the semi-circular element blend in with the rectangular plaza, the concrete was scored to match the rectangular pattern of the original plaza’s concrete. In time, when the concrete ages, the slight curve of the new concrete will fade in contrast. Now all visitors including disabled, frail, and mothers with baby carriages can all enter the cell house using the same entrance without calling attention to any special means for them, a truly Universal Design solution.