BIG brings floating villages to San Francisco

Bjarke Ingels hopes his scheme for Islais Creek will not only hold back the sea, but also the Bay Area's house prices
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A rendering from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), One Architecture + Urbanism (ONE), and Sherwood Design Engineers (Sherwood)'s plan for San Francisco's Islais Creek
A rendering from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), One Architecture + Urbanism (ONE), and Sherwood Design Engineers (Sherwood)'s plan for San Francisco's Islais Creek

The Islais Creek in San Francisco might take its name from a strain of wild cherries, yet it doesn't exactly overflow with nature's bounty. The river runs underground for much of its course, before draining into the bay on the south-eastern side of the city, in an industrial area, just below the Dogpatch neighbourhood.

A casual onlooker could guess the creek was fairly polluted. However, city planners believe Islais's sorry state presents greater problems. The city could flood, or suffer from other ecological difficulties, if waterways such as the Islais aren't attended to soon.

 

A rendering from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), One Architecture + Urbanism (ONE), and Sherwood Design Engineers (Sherwood)'s plan for San Francisco's Islais Creek
A rendering from Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), One Architecture + Urbanism (ONE), and Sherwood Design Engineers (Sherwood)'s plan for San Francisco's Islais Creek

In response, San Francisco has turned to Danish architect Bjarke Ingels' BIG practice, in an attempt to find new ways to fix up this old watercourse. Working on conjunction with fellow architects ONE and Sherwood Design Engineers, BIG has developed a scheme to reintroduce greenery along the banks of the creek, with turf-covered buildings and parkland lining the river.

However, the truly innovative architectural developments will be built on the creek itself, with a series of floating, man-made islands housing waterborne "villages" which would be connected to the mainland by a dedicated system of ferries.

 

The brief may have focussed on ecological threats, but BIG's new scheme addresses social problems too – such as the Bay Area's housing crisis – with plans, that, as Ingels puts it, not only hold back the rising sea levels, but also "grow the bay for nature, for people and for a changing climate."

For more on great waterside architecture get Living on Water. 


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