This small building on a newly reclaimed landfill provides the first-ever opportunity for the under-served citizens of this small city to access the natural wonders of the San Francisco Bay. FOG Studio was selected by a public vote to guide the design process, which included 8 community meetings to decide upon programmatic elements, building form, materials and aesthetics. There were significant challenges to the site, which is not only underlain with bay mud in a highly seismic area, but which served as a burn dump for several decades. In an earlier phase, the entire peninsula was remediated with two feet of clean fill to cap potential hazards – except for the building site area, which capped the site with structural slabs and landscape paving.
The 4,000 SF building will house exhibits on local natural history, including two endemic endangered species. It provides meeting space and learning facilities for the community, as well as a venue for celebrations. A large multipurpose area is fitted out with audiovisual equipment for presentations, and served by a warming kitchen, storage and restrooms that is available to park visitors via a vestibule.
More significantly to the citizens who have co-designed the project, the building components tell the story of the successive waves of human history to the area formerly known as Ravenswood. Its significance as a shipping hub in the 1800s is acknowledged by the hull and sail forms sculpted in wood, while the brickworks that supplied materials for San Francisco’s Palace Hotel are honored by the brick service cores. The importance of rain and fresh water is underscored by an abstraction of the tidal sloughs surrounding the site, whose actual flow comes from rainfall falling from the roof and meandering through the site. Layers of detail and history are overlaid via design onto the building and site, in a wordless celebration of the past and present citizens of this bayside town.