RA001|HALOPHILIA centered on research and development of proposals for 16,000 acres of salt evaporator ponds that form the edges of the southern San Francisco Bay. Participants investigated how a landscape of closure could unfold into a mosaic of post-industrial ecosystems and public spaces between the urban edges and open water of the bay. Proposals included creating new marshlands with dredge spoils, algae production landscapes for clean energy, and a large scale carbon sequestration and wetland banking scheme.
Site Location: San Francisco Bay
Formerly a 25,000-acre, productive estuary system of sloughs and wetlands, The South Bay edges are now comprised of a highly managed, complex land reclamation system organized by levees, channels, ponds, and pumps for commodity production, navigation, flood control, energy and water infrastructure, and public access. The distinctive color of the ponds is due to the presence of algae adapted to hypersaline environments.
In 2003, the State of California purchased the salt evaporator ponds from the Cargill Corporation with the long-term goal of restoring the ponds to tidal wetlands that have been lost due to urbanization.
Field study program:
- Slough tour with ecologist Darcie Collins of Save the Bay.
- Tour of redevelopment Hunters Point redevelopment and remediation project with ENGEO geotechnical project manager Brian Johnson.
- Visit to recent landscape architecture projects along San Francisco Bay: Union Point Park, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Crissy Field, Marin Headlands, Bay Point Park.
- Studio visits: Tom Leader Studio, Peter Walker and Partners, Conger Moss Guillard.
- Kite aerial photography workshop with Cris Benton of UC Berkeley.
- Salt marsh lecture at Alviso ecology center.
The first portion focused on research and mapping of existing conditions along the bay. In the second portion participants collectively produced a “Catalog of Operations” detailing the historic and future manipulations of systems within the salt pond complex. In the final phase of the studio, participants developed a targeted intervention to accommodate, intensify and reveal existing and proposed land uses and “third ecologies” within the salt ponds project area.
Little of the historic bay estuary landscape remains intact and upland conditions are highly urbanized. Participants were asked to develop a critical position on the design post-industrial “third ecologies”. “Third ecologies” are not restored or historical ecological systems, rather, they are novel ecologies, born of disturbance regimes and improvised in the traces of former industrial landscapes.
Numerous governmental organizations, wildlife and recreation advocacy groups, utility companies, and NGOs are stakeholders in the salt ponds project. With so many conflicting land-use goals “in play”, the South Bay Salt ponds offers an exceptional opportunity to propose a discreet and strategic dialog between the retrofitted, evolving landscape mitigated by deliberately customized interventions.
This thickened edge of cellular ponds and channels features gradients from wet to dry, shallow to deep, fresh to hyper saline, healthy to toxic. Each pond’s future program is determined by conditions such as bathymetric profile, salinity levels, tidal connection and habitat potential. In this massive de-and re-engineering project, participants researched how a new landscape might emerge between “hard” and “soft” engineering tactics such as levee breaching and levee reinforcement, re-sedimentation through tidal action and mechanical dredging, and the recalibration of salinity levels via operations of concentration and dilution.
These simple operations, amplified at the landscape scale, will propagate to affect new material linkages and promote reciprocity with the urban edge of the bay. Participants considered how the design of this new idiosyncratic landscape infrastructure will support the upland urban ecosystem through habitat creation, flood control, carbon sequestration, water treatment, and new recreation networks, including the Bay and Water Trails.