Horseshoe Cove

Year: 2009
Location: Marin Headlands, California
Collaboration: David Fletcher of Fletcher Studio and Nenad Katic of

Description: For over 100 years, Horseshoe Cove has undergone massive spatial, programmatic, and ecological change. From its early years as grazing land to its long military use, the Cove has evolved to its current status as one of the Bay Area’s most significant cultural, educational, and recreational sites. However, the site has been developed in a piecemeal fashion that has resulted in the abandonment of the water’s edge. Although other sites such as the Cavallo Conference Center and the Bay Area Discovery Museum draw large groups of visitors, the water’s edge has remained in a state of neglect and disuse.

This proposal for the redevelopment and restoration of the water’s edge starts with the concept creating a dynamic, mixed-use site. The Cove is unique in its combination of recreational, military, and educational uses and the goal is to support and grow this programmatic diversity. This is accomplished through the construction of an interdigitated landscape between land and water. Like the fingers of two hands interlocked, the project stitches together the larger landscape into the San Francisco Bay. Land is pushed out into the water and water is pulled back into the land. Although the overall “horseshoe” shape of the cove is retained, a much more dynamic and diverse water’s edge is created. Understood biomimetically, the folding of the water’s edge increases its overall surface area and becomes a better filter between the land and water.

The folded joint between the land and water acts as the central circulation across the site. Its meandering geometry extends the promenade and connects it back with several important site features. The interior of each fold houses the primary functions of the site. From providing improved fishing piers to creating a bermed earth outside amphitheater, this project spine connects and redistributes the activities of the site. In addition to a warming hut containing restrooms and a waterfront café/restaurant, one of the new landscape piers houses a community event space that can be reserved by the public for things such as weddings, reunions, and other social gatherings. Finally, the inland landscape folds contain programs such as a National Park Service Visitor Center and Shop as well as a bike and boat rental/repair shop.

Beyond the programmatic diversity of the project, there is also a strong desire to integrate the ecological diversity of the site into the project. Several methods have been used to restore and enhance the ecological footprint of the project. Starting on western side of the site, the existing underground drainage system is daylighted, creating a new stream that would support flora and fauna as well as providing an opportunity for interpretive walks from the discovery center. This stream would exit into a newly constructed estuary on water’s edge. In the center of the site, a newly created wetland and bio-pool would process and store the graywater from the site while providing for educational and recreational opportunities. A contemporary interpretation of the famous early-20th century Sutro Baths across the bay, the bio-pool would quickly become a Bay Area icon of health, ecology, and recreation.

The project proposes two energy generation strategies through the use of wind and solar power. The Horseshoe Cove and Discovery Center parking lot will be covered with photovoltaic solar panels. Not only will these panels provide the project with energy, but they also provide shade for the cars below. Wind power is provided through a series of wind turbines sited near the historic Fort Baker bunker in a prime wind corridor. The turbines would be painted to match the Golden Gate Bridge as a reminder of the link between 20th and 21st century infrastructure of the Bay Area.

This plan for Horseshoe Cove recasts it as a place of life, energy, and education for the region. Providing much needed amenities for the thousands of annual visitors, the project stitches together land and water to create a new hybrid edge condition.

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