Perched between the Bay and the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco is surrounded by—and in many ways defined by—its waterfront context. At the eastern edge of the Bay this land-water threshold has been transformed over time—from tidally-influenced mudflats formed and reformed by wind, erosion and water—to a constructed, armored-edge. This hard, static edge comprised of piers, docks and wharfs was also formed over time—through a deployment of a complex framework for siltation, accretion and land-reclamation. Once central to the vibrant shipping industry in San Francisco, the eastern waterfront is now a collage of retail, restaurants, office space, wholesale fish markets, tourist destinations, private boat docks, public piers, parking lots and open space. The San Francisco Bay Trail seeks to connect this network of spaces, in an effort to create a more legible and accessible network of waterfront open space.
The Barnacles at Pier 9 looked at transforming one of these spaces—the marginal wharf between Pier 9 and 11—into a public open space that celebrates the ecology of flux at the edge of the Bay. Inspired by the natural history of the San Francisco Bay, the design team looked at the geometry of barnacle clusters as inspiration to create a space that invites visitors to sit, lounge and play at the edge of the Bay. This edge is not a pure delineation, rather it is a moving threshold that pulses with tidal, seasonal and annual change. To read this flux— and the ecological and temporal richness that it invites— a datum must be deployed that marks and celebrates change. Inspired by the horizontal striations of the intertidal zone and the abstracted geometry of a key intertidal species, the Barnacles at Pier 9 are a steady and quiet datum at the edge of the Bay; ocean spray, crowds of students visiting the Exploratorium, tourists, cyclists and birds come in waves, imbuing the place with new meaning and stories and then they retreat—the barnacles left empty and still again.