We find ourselves at an intriguing, problematic site along the waterfront in Sausalito, presented with a series of unknowns. The long term future of the site is uncertain, as a new ground-up building may one day be constructed, but when this building arrives is a question, and the form it will take is still under development. The planning and approvals process for this future structure will be long and arduous and our client rightfully wants to turn the existing building, a handsome WWII shipbuilding factory, into a useful collection of studios in this indeterminate interim. How to design for this?
In a Japanese meditation garden, objects float in space in permanent, fixed locations. We don’t have the luxury of permanence, so we cheat, and extract the principles of the meditation garden but apply them to our site with ever-changing elements. Ours is a constantly moving meditation garden; an unmoored Ryoan-ji that can adjust and shift as needed. If the gardens of Kyoto are ruminations on entropy, life, death and maintenance, we softly posit that this project is about all those same themes, our manifestation simply isn’t fixed. Rather than design a landscape, we thus design a kit of parts. A family of elements that can be moved by a bobcat or forklift, so that as the site takes shape and changes, these elements can simply be moved and placed elsewhere. Nothing is wasted with the exception of a bit of gas and human labour.
We build a gravel parking lot, instead of wheel stops we go to the stone yard and find remnant chunks of basalt in the refuse area – spoils leftover from another project unrelated to us – we find these basalt shards beautiful and now they indicate where parking spaces lie. Our stone salesman doesn’t know what to charge us and is flabbergasted that we only shop from the trash area, but he’ll just have to figure it out. We source and bring to site a large quantity of trees that grow in the botanical grey area between Japan and Northern California. These trees are in wood boxes now but we are developing a custom steel planter that will soon be their home. We source boulders from the local region and they sit on pallets, and can be moved as the site needs to adjust. We commission large scale sawn timbers that act as furniture / object / art and place them via machines with our eyes.
The project isn’t done. You’ll notice exposed irrigation lines, wood tree boxes that are deteriorating, less than ideal details. We embrace the imperfect quality of the site and these unfinished moments. The site hums with the magic of a level of construction that we love at Terremoto – we don’t like luxurious, slick details; we prefer that alchemical aesthetic that comes along when an untrained builder thinks about a thing for a long time, or conversely, when a highly trained builder just builds. Like everything has been considered, but only for the appropriate amount of time.
Landscape Architect: TERREMOTO
Project Location: Sausalito Waterfront, California USA
Design year: 2018
Year Built: 2018
Photos by Caitlin Atkinson.