Phantom Coast: Transforming San Francisco’s Eastern Waterfront

"Every city is full of ghosts, and learning to see some of them is one of the arts of becoming a true local."
– Rebecca Solnit, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas

Positioned between the Bay and the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco is surrounded and defined by its waterfront context. The San Francisco Seawall—an incrementally constructed bulkhead that once supported a vibrant shipping industry— is now a failing piece of infrastructure that anchors the eastern edge of the city. The Seawall no longer responds to the structural, cultural or ecological needs of the evolving San Francisco waterfront or broader urban context.

In an age where addressing change is a tenet of meaningful public open space and infrastructure design, the San Francisco Seawall demands an innovative strategy for creating a new and vital civic spine at the San Francisco Bay’s edge that is itself a palimpsest of the city’s maritime, transportation, and cultural heritage and immersed in regional ecology. Perhaps most importantly, this infrastructure can become a new forum for civic engagement and activism in San Francisco.

This studio will explore the imaginative potential of the San Francisco Seawall as both innovative infrastructure and dynamic and engaging public open space.

The studio will have two distinct components:
1. The study and re-evaluation of the Seawall as a tool for transforming the complex urban network of streets and neighborhoods along the San Francisco Bay. These studies and proposals will be speculative in nature and will address – but are not limited to—issues of large scale infrastructure, sea level rise, land use, seismic impacts, disaster strategies, open space, development and political activism.
2. The detailed study and design of a specific element within the larger urban design proposal. Students will work with The Pier 9 Workshop/Autodesk at their San Francisco waterfront office to develop, model, and prototype. Explorations will culminate in the testing and fabrication in collaboration with Concreteworks, a local digital concrete fabrication studio. Students will tentatively visit the site and meet with local agencies and project stakeholders (The Port of San Francisco, Bay Conservation Development Commission [BCDC]) during the semester. The studio synthesizes urban-scale strategies and inquiries with tactile material explorations.

Schedule: studio meets nearly every week on Tuesday and Wednesday, but instructors alternate visits among one another.