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Project Team

Authors: Maria Ramirez Perez, Valeriya Velyka

Institution: California College of the Arts

Instructors: Evan Jones and Margaret Ikeda

Studio: Buoyant Ecologies: Urban Ecotones at Islais Creek; Graduate and Undergraduate Architecture, Fall 2020

Partners: Malcolm X Academy Elementary School: 4th graders & teacher Ms. Seid; Y-PLAN: Shirl Buss, PhD & D’sjon Dixon; SFNOMA: Prescott Reavis; San Francisco Planning: Luiz Barata, Daniella Ngo, Lisa Chen, Jacob Wallace Jr.; CCA Architecture: Yulia Grinkrug; Benthic Lab at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories: John Oliver, PhD & Kamille Hammerstrom; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill: Lisa Follman, David Shook

Project Description

The Activist Research Center provides a gathering space for Bayview's community to take action on climate change and pollution. The constructed wetland directs and harvests water to study the conditions of the site while creating habitats for local ecology. The building is organized by a 24’ by 40’ structural grid with glulam columns and a CLT Floor construction. There are no perimeter walls, and the interior rooms are flexible with natural light, ventilation and green access. The grid translates from the wetland to the façade. The green panels help filter the air, while testing various microclimates. The green roof helps filter storm runoff and provides habitat for birds and pollinators. The building is a lab itself, using all the surfaces as testing zones. The open plan allows programs to merge while encouraging involvement and curiosity. The public get a glimpse into the science behind pollution, while the researchers are reminded of the need for justice. The building serves as a beacon of hope for the neglected neighborhood. It acts as a multi-generational community center focused on finding solutions to pollution and climate change.


Studio Description

Biologists define an ecotone as a region of transition between two biological communities. In nature these two communities create edges that are legible but equally capable of growth, adaptation and change. The historical settlement of the San Francisco Bay shoreline, like many urban estuaries, has been one of modifying these natural ecotones in favor of fixed vertical edges engineered for specific hard infrastructures like piers and seawalls. Islais Creek, once the largest watershed in the San Francisco peninsula, was gradually channelized and filled in by real estate speculators. Currently, the location where Islais Creek visually begins (daylighted) is a major outflow for a wastewater treatment plant that handles 80% of the city’s solid waste. The edges are mostly truncated, paved and covered with non-functioning piers and silos, but also commercial shipping that brings in piles of building materials, sand, concrete and aggregate, essential for the construction of the city which rises in the background. These large infrastructural projects have created physical shoreline boundaries, marginalizing communities like Bayview Hunter’s Point from water access and leaving a legacy of polluted soil, underemployment and urban segregation. Yet intertwined with these material staging areas are novel approaches to material salvage, landscape businesses, and creative reuse. We will look to these approaches to suggest potential avenues for new economic development as an alternative to top-down approaches.

As historical inequalities are being brought to light in the public discourse and as the economic fallout of the pandemic impacts poor communities disproportionately, this studio will explore how architecture can begin to synthesize ecological and urban remediation with practical and inspired architectural actions. The studio will work with longtime Buoyant Ecologies partners at the Benthic Lab, Kreysler & Associates, and Autodesk Technology Centers. As well as with agency input from the Port of San Francisco, the City of SF Planning as well as BCDC, the major governing bodies tasked with regulating Islais Creek shoreline area. Teams of two will work to understand these high level policies in conjunction with a more fine grain reading of the community, the ecology, and the infrastructure potential of the site. Buoyant Ecologies projects look to infrastructural systems that tap into site resources like wastewater, renewable energy collection, transport hubs, and food production as drivers of a design. Community group liaison as well as ecologists will form equally significant partnerships to reveal and address human and non-human interests to an economic and ecological Center for a neighborhood looking for a transformational relationship to the water’s edge.