27 November 2013

An Embarcadero High Line? Unbuilt SF Show at UC Berkeley

Starting and finishing a project is a good thing. In the case of the Unbuilt San Francisco exhibit, the projects were never finished, or highly altered in their final design. In my case, I succeeded in my "project" of visiting all five exhibit locations earlier this month. The exhibit at UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design ended earlier than all four others, and I caught it on its last day.

What did I learn from the exhibit in Berkeley.
  1. The college has an exhibit space at Wurster Hall for shows like this. I should be going there more often.
  2. Architecture and Urban Planning departments seem to always be in the ugliest building on campus.
  3. Two genuinely surprising pieces were on display. One exciting one should have been built, the other was more about the process and less about the image on display.
  4. Taking detailed photography of models and renderings on display in a semi-low light room is no task for an iPhone 4S. I must buy a real camera. My apologies for not providing crisper images.

Exciting - but sadly never "built"

The most surprising and exciting display was an audacious 1991 proposal from two architects, Byron Kuth and Liz Ranieri, to retain one single section of the Embarcadero Freeway as a "physical reminder of past planning mistakes." A detailed 3-D model is the main attraction (as seen below). The proposal called for "cutting a hole into the [section] and allowing a redwood tree to emerge."
The upper deck would have had benches and allowed views of the bay. Although the couple pamphleted telephone poses and wrote a letter to The Chronicle that was never published, "We just couldn't get traction... Even our friends thought we were crazy."

I saw a piece of the Cypress Freeway structure in Oakland that was preserved for several months to perform tests. Seeing a single section of freeway alone was quite striking, both for knowing the death and physical tragedy of the collapse, but also the odd and hypnotically strange sight of a single section of freeway. If this proposal had been carried out, I believe it would have been beautiful, haunting, and a great reminder of a big planning mistake, not to mention, provide nice views of the Bay.

Too bad the Chronicle never printed their letter. The renderings would have looked more realistic with green redwood trees. All in all, I think this would have really been a great space pointing to the past, much like old city walls in European cities, and pointing to the future with the adaptive reuse of the structure.

I wondered, where was this section of freeway to keep as a proto-High Line mini-park? And what's there today?

Location: The triangle lot of Embarcadero, Howard and Steuart.
Current Use: Asphalt open space.
Yes, that's right, the space that was once a freeway "wall" is nothing today, not even a green plaza. Granted, it's a small triangular lot, so it'd be harder than normal to build there, but I imagine a building or a park could fit in the space nonetheless.

I figured out where it was by noticing the parking structure looking building in the background of the model. Putting together Embarcadero and parking structure, I could only think of the one next to Gap, Inc. headquarters.

19 November 2013

Image of the Week: Before the Orange Trolleybuses

Where: 18th Street at Valencia Street, San Francisco, California, USA
When: 31 October 2013
What: Historic Muni Trolleybus #776
Comment: I saw this as I was walking down the street. Apparently Muni #776 is a Marmon-Herrington bus that dates from 1950 according to the Muni Heritage Weekend press release and Trolleybuses.net. The bus was retired in 1977 according to Muni Fleet Wikipedia.  The Muni release states that, 
"Bus No. 776: A 1950 Marmon-Herrington trolley coach, which served virtually all of Muni’s trolley bus lines during its quarter-century of service. It is painted in its original green and cream “Wings” livery." per Muni."
Must have been practice time to drive the bus since the windshield has a "Training Coach" sign on it.
Related Posts: Rainy Day on the 33, Street Design of Valencia Street

15 November 2013

The Bay Shoreline You Never Knew

When I think of San Francisco Bay, as in the bay itself and its shoreline, I think of places like the Embarcadero, SFO, the boat marinas, a town named Alviso, and the marshes of Suisun Bay (with its shrinking mothball fleet). Just thinking of it now, there's quite a diversity. But there is a lot we do not see as most of us don't boat the coastline or take hikes along its sometimes industrial and marshy edges.

Castro Point, Richmond. Image: CLUI
The recently published picture book, Around the Bay: Man-Made Sites of Interest in the San Francisco Bay Region takes a look at the bay's entire shoreline through the lense of aerial photography. Think of Robert Cameron's Above San Francisco more than Google's satellite views. Written by Matthew Coolidge and published by the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI),

What's most striking is that the bay shoreline is replete with so many existing and former industrial or less desirable uses. Over and over again former garbage dumps, operational sewage treatment plants, and industrial sites like refineries, former explosives sites and open pit quarries border the bay. Of course we see many airports and marinas and ports and there are beautiful locations such as Angel Island, Aquatic Park, and Point Pinole.

City of Hercules, Image: CLUI

09 November 2013

Image of the Week: Embarcadero Miracle Whitewash

Where: Embarcadero Station (BART), San Francisco, California, USA
When: November 2013
What: South and north walls of the BART Level.
Comment: I went through the station today and sensed something was different or off about the station. Had new LED light been added? No the walls on the north(west) side had been cleaned, er sandblasted into bright white! The wall on the left is the south(east) side. The cleaning, although very welcome, is a reminder of how much dirt and soot from the Transbay Tube settles in the station.
The macrame artpiece get's all the negative attention at Embarcadero Station. However, the walls have a nice subtle circular theme, but until this cleaning, I didn't realize they were so incredibly dirty.
Related Posts: BART 70s Space Age Tiles

A post about cleanliness at Embarcadero Station would not be complete without reference and more info on the notorious macrame piece at the northeast end of the station. Find out more, including info on the less famous artpiece at the station, after the break.