The historical settlement of the San Francisco Bay shoreline, like many urban estuaries, has been one of modifying 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. 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 Hunters Point from water access and leaving a legacy of polluted soil, unemployment and urban segregation.
Currently the community gathers for events and meetings at the Ruth William Memorial Theater, the public transportation is inefficient and there are only two restored ecological sites. Our site in Islais Creek is neglected with a deteriorated platform and wooden piers.
The building embraces the existing piers by using it as the basis of the design. It aims to turn the site into a freshwater wetland and reinstate the native ecology while adapting to sea level rise. The raised foundation allows for open space under the building that becomes a protected area that blends into the environment providing different ambiance from day to night.
Bayview Cultural Academy celebrates the history of its environment and provides a space for culture and education, its primary function is to serve as an archive of the community’s history, and to create a new gathering space for all age groups. There is ample space for social justice and performances in the auditorium and mural art by local artists connects Bayview’s culture to the academy.
The building is designed for longevity and durability, with base isolators that reduce seismic effects on the structure. The vertical timber columns serve as both enclosure and structure members. The reciprocating structure divides the spaces for different programs, the areas where it leans-in, is where the most closed programs are located while everywhere else is public spaces. The open material feel of the building was considered to reflect the transparency commitment to the community. Skylight runs all the way through the building to bring light to the underside garden. Solar panels provide energy needs for running the building on a daily basis. There is ample bike parking that promotes alternative transportation for workers and visitors.
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