A Re-presentation the Sutro Baths by
A Re-presentation the Sutro Baths
A thesis submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Cincinnati in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Architecture
in the School of Architecture and Interior Design of the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning
Bachelor of Art Willamette University, 2009
Thesis Chair: Aarati Kanekar, Ph. D. Second Chair: Michael McInturf, M. Arch Advisor: Terry Boling, B. Arch
There is a prevailing mindset in which built and natural are not only separate, but opposites. This dichotomy causes a rift in the humanenvironment relationship which creates a limited perception of place. The Sutro Baths in Landâ€™s End Park, San Franscisco is a site where built and natural are fused: the original construction manipulated the site to integrate natural phenomena with its infrastructure, and today the architectural remains create conditions which are intrinsic to the current environment. However, with the destruction of the bath-house, movement through the site is fairly unstructured. Taking a phenomenological approach, this thesis designs an experiential system of movement through the Sutro Baths which re-presents both historical and natural context of the site. The design is a process-based exploration of the literal and metaphorical journey. Mapping is used both as a generator for design and as representation to communicate the multilayered complexity of the design process and provides a medium for interpreting the complex, interwoven layers of meaning which influence the relationship of process, design, and place.
A special thanks to ...
Aarati Kanekar for her patience and guidance. Terry Boling, unofficial-yet-equally-influential thesis chair, for providing insight and feedback. Ro Koster, Ad Kil, Phoebe Schenker, and Laura Huylebroeck for generously sharing their work and answering my questions. Luke Sinopoli, Katie Bohurjak, Ruiming Song, and Ifrah Arshad for their invaluable assistance, and excellent company while casting the concrete site model. My parents, Skip and Sallie Kahler, for listening to me whine, checking-in to make sure I was still alive, and their endless love and support.
2014, all rights reserved.
Abstract Acknowledgements Introduction
I The Human-Environment Relationship
II Site Analysis
III Phenomenology: A Re-presentation
IV Tectonics of the Built and Natural Environments
V Thesis Design Project
Introduction It is difficult to collect landscapes as we collect paintings, and so we must be content to visit scenic places, collecting, if you will, experiences of landscape. Some people presumed to possess land, but few can present to possess a landscape. Arnold Berleant “Living in the Landscape”1
The Sutro Bath Ruins in San Francisco, California demonstrate
the power of natural processes reclaiming a man-made structure. The original Sutro Bath House, while stylistically extravagant, was an early example of architecture mechanically integrating with local, natural phenomena: the baths were designed to be refreshed by ocean water through the ebb and flow of the tides. Built in the 1890’s and torn down in the 1960’s, all that remains now are the foundations which are constantly interacting with the site’s elemental forces. The baths were dependent on the existing natural2 processes and the current ecosystem today is only possible because of the remaining foundations; it is a site where man-made construction and natural process have merged, and that relationship is an essential factor in its sense of place.
Between the architectural remains, the cyclical essence of the
local climate, and the dramatic topography, this site provides an excellent challenge and opportunity to explore methods of design which adopt a similar fusion of built and natural. The design project weaves through the landscape in the form of a pathway, specifically the development of three main regions. Each leg of the path is rooted in and expressive of the formative conditions - built and natural - which are present in each region. Based on a phenomenological analysis of the context and the exploration of various cognitive mapping techniques, the design seeks to re-present the site of the Sutro Baths.
This thesis is a process-based investigation.
seeking to answer a specific question or address a particular problem, 1 Arnold Berleant. Living in the Landscape: Toward an Aesthetics of Environment. (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1997) 5. 2 For the purposes of this essay, “natural” refers to something which occurs regardless of the presence of humankind.
this document and design project begin with an area of interest, examine the underlying influences which have lead to its current state, and allow that exploration to form the approach. Part I introduces the broad, theoretical topic of the human-environment relationship and discusses its effects on sense of place. This is followed, in part II, by an exploration of important aspects of the site in order to more fully understand not only its present condition, but also the forces of change which have shaped its current state (and continue to do so). However, no amount of physical or historical description can quite capture the enigmatic experience of the site. Therefore, Part III, provides an overview of several theories of phenomenology as well as compares precedents in order to more clearly define architectureâ€™s role in the re-presentation of place. Part IV discusses the principles of the tectonic school of thought as a facilitator for translating the philosophical and conceptual discussion into the physical manifestation of the built object. Lastly, Part V is a comprehensive documentation of the mapping process and its role in the ultimate design proposal.
I. The Human-Environment Relationship Buildings replace the land. That is architectureâ€™s original sin. A building makes something new, but does not do so in a void. What was once open land, filled with sunlight and air, with a distinct relationship to the horizon, becomes a building. The artifices of humans supersede what nature has deposited on a given place. The bulk of a building stops air, sunlight and views. The memories that built up around that particular place, either individually or as a culture, also disappear. In their place is a structure that is new, if only for a moment, and that aspires to have a perfect form, function and appearance. Some buildings even hope to move as far away as possible from the land on which they rise. In all cases, a building is one thing above all else: not the land.1 Aaron Betsky
In the quote above, architectural critic Aaron Betsky, sets up a
stark, binary relationship between architecture and nature. His viewpoint is not new; the conceptual and physical relationship between architecture and its environment has been a topic of debate for centuries.2 Regardless of the ebbs and flows in the role of nature within architectural theory and practice, there is a persistent, underlying assumption that built and natural are in conflict where one always consumes the other . The perpetuation of this mind-set is due in part to prevailing, idyllic notions of nature and in part to the traditional, protective role of architecture.3 However, conceptually and physically treating each as a separate entity results in a rift which limits the experiential and perceptual sense of place.
The term place, in most everyday usage, implies a spatial
definition.4 However, as a theoretical construct, the notion of place 1 Aaron Betsy.. Landscrapers: Building with the Land. (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2002) 6. 2 For a concise overview of the evolution of the human-environment relationship, refer to Chapters 1 and 2 of Experiential Landscape: An Approach to People, Place and Space. 3 For a more in depth discussion on the notion of nature and its role in architecture, refer to Natural Metaphor: an Anthology of Essays on Architecture and Nature. 4 The Oxford English dictionary defines place as â€œA particular position of point in space.â€?
requires a more complex interpretation. Arnold Berleant, a philosopher and scholar working largely in the field of aesthetics and place, writes, “The most general meaning of place as a static, then, is a particular perceptual environment that joins a distinctive identity in coherence with a memorable character, and with which we actively engage in attention or action.”5 Place is more abstract than its physical location, and it is more tangible than a state of mind; it is rooted in experiencing the essential qualities of a perceivable environment. When architecture is designed with the primary intention to bound or create space, it inevitably shuts out place.
Conventional architecture, as portrayed by Betsky, supplants its
natural context: wall assemblies define boundaries; the space contained within is conditioned for human comfort regardless of – and often in direct opposition to – the local climate; irregular topography is flattened for construction. The physical components of architecture are expected to protect against the elements, isolating the interior experience from the exterior. At the site scale, figure/ground studies polarize and segregate based on the built, portrayed in black, and everything else, represented in white (or vice versa). Linda Pollak, a landscape architect who has written widely on the relationship between architecture and landscape, criticizes this approach in her essay “Constructed Ground”: This persistent blindness is evident in the still common recourse to the figure/ground plan, which fails to engage the material aspects of a site, representing the ground as a void around buildings. This convention of figure/ground is part of a historically embedded oppositional system of thought –other oppositions include architecture/landscape, object/ space, culture/nature, and work/site – which foregrounds and acknowledges the construction of the first paired term while naturalizing the second as unproblematic background. The tendency is to view the second, or what I call environmental term, as an abstract container, separate from the objects, events and relations that occur within it. These second terms often become fused together in some kind of landscape-space5 Arnold Berleant. “Aesthetics of Place.” in Sarah Menin, ed., Constructing Place: Mind and Matter. (New York: Routledge, 2003), 46.
nature-site blur, in contrast to the supposedly clear outlines of architecture.6
By reducing all the complexities and subtleties down to black
and white, the architectural experience is isolated from the essential characteristics of its site. The traditional figure/ground model functions under a clear definition of what is built and what is context. However, when that differentiation is not clear, the model is not easily applicable. In the following sections, a closer analysis of the site conditions and processes will show that built and natural are not always distinct, static entities, but instead exist as part of a fluid continuum where each one influences the other.
6 Linda Pollak. â€œConstructed Groundâ€?. in Charles Waldheim, ed., The Landscape Urbanism Reader. (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2006), 127.
II. Site Analysis Landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from the strata of memory as from layers of rock.1 Simon Schama Landscape and Memory
In order to use architectural design to reinterpret the prevailing
human-environment relationship, it is important to first understand the many layers of the existing environment. For the purpose of this thesis, the term environment goes beyond implications of natural versus artificial; it includes any and everything in the perceivable area which influences the experience of place. The environment encompasses the physical features of the local geography, ecology and climate as well as the less tangible (yet equally influential) layers of cultural history, social memory, and sensual qualities which are essential to the character of the site.
More than a million visitors each year travel to Land’s End Park
because it is the site of the historical Sutro Bathhouse.2 Adolph Sutro was not the first to inhabit or develop the property3, however his role on this site had lasting influence on the city of San Francisco and has become a defining period in the history of this site.
Completed in 1894, the Sutro complex was a major feat of
engineering during its heyday, featuring six swimming tanks complete with diving boards and slides, an exterior ocean pool aquarium, and a small museum displaying Sutro’s extensive collection of natural and cultural artifacts. Sutro conceived of the development as an opportunity for cultural refreshment and refinement for the public. He believed: “These Western shores should become the lands of cultured 1 Simon Schama. Landscape and Memory. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. 2 EDAW. “Sutro Historic District Comprehensive Design and Environmental Assessment.” San Francisco, California: 1993.
fig. 2.1: San Francisco Bay Area with site marked, 2014.
3 The earliest known visitors to the region are believed to be members of the Ohlone tribe. Shell mounds indicate their presence as early as 500 AD, however it is not believed that this was a site of permanent residence. Spanish settlers ousted the Ohlone in the late 1700’s. It was the Spanish which gave Point Lobos its name due to the barking of the sea lions nearby. “The History and Significance of the Adolph Sutro Historic District: excerpts from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form prepared in 2000.” accessed January 6, 2014, http://www.nps.gov/goga/historyculture/ upload/sutro_history.pdf.
groves and artistic gardens, the home of a powerful and refined race. To reach this happy consummation, a taste for the beautiful in nature must be engendered in the masses….”4
Sutro sought to enhance appreciation of nature’s by harnessing
the elements already present on the site and manipulating them for public recreation. He cut a channel into the rock along the south face of Point Lobos directing the high tide waves into a small, tiered pool, collecting a variety of sea life swept in with the tide.
After construction of the tidal pool aquarium, Sutro undertook
construction of an enormous bathhouse. A massive breakwater, 20 feet deep and 25 feet wide at the top, protected the bathhouse from the ocean even in stormy seas5. The pools were fed by ocean water collected via a tunnel blasted beneath Point Lobos. At high tide the sea water was funneled into an exterior settling pool before being pumped to the interior, conditioned, and used to refresh the salt water bathing pools. Extra pumps were required during low tide.
On the eastern slope, fresh water from several natural springs
was collected into reservoirs. The steel structure of the bathhouse supported a massive glass roof and facade, allowing natural light to flood the conditioned interior and providing views to the horizon. In the levels above the pools, the complex boasted tiered seating, restaurants, an amphitheater, and galleries and could accommodate 10,000 visitors.6
Despite praise in the press, and apparent popularity with the
public, the bath house was never a lucrative business. Maintenance costs ate into profits and the complex lost money each year. After series of fires and renovations which failed to drum up profits, the bath house closed in the 1960’s. Towards the end of the demolition, a fire finished the job, and only the foundations remained. fig. 2.2 Exterior of Sutro Baths; 1966. fig. 2.3 Interior of Sutro Baths; unknown date. fig. 2.4 Group of swimmers; unknown date.
4 Ariel Rubissow Okamoto. A Day at the Seaside: San Francisco’s Sutro Heights, Cliff House, and Sutro Baths (San Francisco, California: Golden Gate National Parks Association, 1998) 28. 5 http://www.nps.gov/goga/historyculture/upload/sutro_history.pdf. 6 Okamoto, 62.
fig. 2.5 Exterior of Sutro Baths; unknown date. Fig. 2.6 Crowds gathering around a fire at Sutro Baths; 1966. fig. 2.7 Sutro Baths in Ruins after the fire; 1966. right: fig. 2.8 Sutro Bath ruins; 2013.
fig. 2.9 Exterior of Sutro Baths; 1966. fig. 2.10 Sutro Baths in Ruins after the fire; 1966. right: fig. 2.11 Sutro Bath ruins; 2013.
fig. 2.12 Exterior of Sutro Baths overlooking the ocean; 1966. fig. 2.13 Exterior of Sutro Baths - after wrecking started; 1966. fig. 2.14 Exterior of Sutro Baths - wrecking nearly completed; 1966. right: fig. 2.15 Sutro Bath ruins; 2013.
Sutro Bath house Site Today
After the destruction of the Sutro Bathhouse, the property
remained largely untouched for several decades. An acquisition study prepared by the California Department of Planning in 1967 proposed public ownership as the most appropriate use for the property: The natural character has combined with various scenic and recreational activities to produce a totally unique San Francisco landmark. The present commercial zoning of this property, however, introduces an element which could potentially destroy the character and recreational value of this landmark, by limiting public access and blocking views of points of scenic interest. Therefore public ownership of this important area seems both appropriate and necessary to the public interest if this landmark is to be protected and enhanced.7
The Golden Gate National Recreational Area (GOGA) acquired
the land in 1976.8 With the exception of a new visitor’s center opened in April of 2013, the site has seen little development beyond the site’s maintenance. Infrastructure remains lie scattered across the landscape. Crumbling columns hint at the previous structural grid, retaining walls and concrete with exposed, rusting rebar provide clues to foundations of the former natatorium. The soft sandstone which makes up a majority of the slope is steadily being stripped out from under concrete slabs, leaving them cantilevering out of the bluffs. Deteriorating pipes protrude from the hillside only to disappear back into it a few yards away.
The boulders and concrete of the breakwater still stands, and
at high tide the sea reaches its base. The surf and wind have crumbled portions of concrete exposing and rusting the rebar embedded in the foundation walls. Just east of the balustrade, a concrete grid that used to support the pump house lies exposed and covered with graffiti. Along the base of Point Lobos, the remains of Sutro’s aquarium are severely deteriorated, but the ocean water still crashes upon the natural basalt shelf at high tide and the water eventually seeps through the debris and fig. 2.16 Rusted Pipe, Sutro Baths; 2013.
7 San Francisco Department of City Planning. “Cliff House-Sutro Baths Acquisition Study.” San Francisco: The Dept., 1967. 8 http://www.nps.gov/goga/historyculture/upload/sutro_history.pdf.
trickles back to the ocean by way of the tiered aquarium pools.
Wearing away under the ceaseless pounding of the waves,
disintegrating under the continuous pecking of the wind and rain, and corroding in the salty ocean spray, these ruins physically manifest the passage of time. They continue to give presence to the grandeur of the past, however their deterioration is equally if not more powerful as a symbol. As physical objects, they bring a variety of textures and the potential for exploration, but more importantly their decay serves as a reminder of the mortality and fragility of culture.
The ruins, which are powerful icons to time, paradoxically
showcase the ability of nature to adapt, reclaim, and grow again. What once were retaining pools have become pockets of marshy habitat fed by natural springs which in turn attracted song birds, small mammals, and amphibians. The bathing pool foundations collect the seeping groundwater into a relatively still, brackish wetland which in turn provides waterfowl with an area for bathing and feeding.9 During the years between the Sutro Bathhouse demolition and acquisition by GOGA, natural cycles reclaimed the ruins and a thriving ecosystem has developed, cradled within the remains of the Sutro Bath house.
The ruins, straddling the conceptual line between deterioration
and growth, are remarkable Unlike exhibits in a museum or a preserved site, these remains are not protected or hidden behind glass cases. They are exposed, inviting interaction. There are a handful of cautionary signs and a few areas which have been blocked with barriers, but most of those locations are still accessible from other routes regardless. There have been deaths and injuries over the years because of conditions made unpredictable by erosion and tidal currents, and due to this the Golden Gate National Recreation Area does not encourage exploration of the ruins. However, without any actual prevention, visitors are free to explore, touch, climb over, peer through, meditate on, and in all ways engage with any piece that is physically reachable.
fig. 2.17 Visitors Explore the Ruins, Sutro Baths; 2013.
9 For a full list of present plant and animal wildlife presiding in the Sutro Baths region, refer to Appendices A and B of the â€œSutro Historic District Comprehensive Design and Environmental Assessment.â€? prepared by EDAW in San Francisco, California: 1993.
By virtue of scale, the dramatic topography dominates the first
impression of the site. Nestled between the bare, rocky bluffs of Point Lobos to the north and the Cliff House to the south, is a vegetated basin that is the result of a combination slow, massive geological forces and much more recent human intervention. Located just a few miles off shore, the San Andreas fault marks the colliding edges of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates. Over millions of years of compression, layers of rock were thrust upward above sea level to form the dramatic topography of the San Francisco Peninsula.
Geologically, the site is comprised mostly of greywacke
sandstone, chert, serpentinite, and basalt. Due to exposure, these layers of rock are slowly being eroded by the forces of tides and winds. The softer stones wear down faster leaving outcroppings of the harder rocks behind. The islands visible off the coast are examples of sea stacks, groupings of hard rocks that remain after the softer stone has worn away. On land, in the more sheltered basin of the site, outcropping of hard basalt protruding from smoothed greywacke and chert provide sharp juxtaposition and a variety of textures.
Although not as easily noticeable under the softening effects of
the vegetation, the natural topography of the site was drastically altered by the development of the Sutro Bathhouse. Adolph Sutro excavated a large amount of the site to create a tiered approach to his seaside resort complete with two retaining pools located on the eastern face of the site. Due to the removal of a significant amount of surface soil, the slopes have undergone severe erosion in the years since Sutroâ€™s construction. Additionally, to the north, the tunnels, channels, and pools carved into the bluffs still stand. However today, the basalt sea shelf and connected channel are not accessible to the public due to deterioration and debris. At high tide, ocean water still travels through to the remains of the tiered ocean pool and filter back out to sea. The tunnel which once fed the pools fig. 2.18 Concrete, Sandstone, and Sea Stacks, Sutro Baths; 2013.
has been converted for pedestrian use, and visitors are able to walk under Point Lobos and catch glimpses of the waves through natural fissures in the rock. The sound of the surf echoes through the enclosed area.
Changes in geology occur so gradually that the topography
appears fixed and enduring. By comparison, the climate is constantly fluctuating, not just from season to season, but within the course of a day or an afternoon. The unique climatic conditions occur in large part because of the underlying geological structure. The coastline of the entire region oriented roughly northwest to southeast, with prevailing ocean currents from the northwest. This produces an eddying effect along the coast which stirs up deeper, colder waters. The dramatically warmer temperatures of inland valleys create a difference in atmospheric pressure. This draws in the cool, moist air of the marine layer and when it hits the cooler waters of the coastline the air temperature decreases producing massive fog banks. As the sun warms the area throughout the day, the fog evaporates and is usually clear by the early afternoon. Later in the day as the inland cools again, atmospheric pressure reverses and the fog retreats across the land and back out to sea.
This cycle is most dramatic in the summer season, however
even at its peak season the fog rates are declining. Global warming subsequent and rising ocean temperatures mean a smaller temperature differential which is a key component to producing and moving the fog. Fog frequency has decreased by as much as 33% since 1951, and current trends suggest it will continue to decline.10 This implies negative effects for the entire regional ecosystem as many organisms depend on the fog as a source of fresh water in the largely rainless summers.
Specifically within the site of the Sutro Bath ruins, the tides and
fog are major defining features which dramatically change the experience of the site depending on the season and time of day. The tides, which fig. 2.19 Sutro Baths; 2013, approximately 3:00 pm.
shift roughly every six hours, can rise as high as 7.2 feet above sea level.11 This is a large enough increase to completely reveal or isolate Fishermanâ€™s Rock located approximately 150 feet from the rock and concrete
fig. 2.20 Sutro Baths; 2013, approximately 3:45 pm the same day.
breakwater. In the summer, during the height of the fogâ€™s reign over San
fig. 2.21 Sutro Baths; 2013, approximately 4:30 pm the same day.
10 James A. Johnston, and Todd E. Dawson. Climatic context and ecological implications of summer fog decline in the coast redwood region. http://rcci.savetheredwoods.org/ pdf/Dawson_fog.pdf.(January 6, 2014).
Francisco, a visitor standing on Point Lobos, could see a crisply defined horizon, and within an hour or two, watch the massive fog banks come
11 Cite these figures
rolling across the ocean, filter over the lip of the cliff faces, and infiltrate the canopy of cypress trees. What begins as a visible object, far out at sea, quickly becomes an atmosphere completely enveloping both site and visitor, cooling the air, dampening sounds and dispersing light into haze.
Due to the collision of marine and freshwater conditions,
taken as a whole the site is home to a wide spectrum of flora and fauna. However, the distribution of species is largely influenced by the isolated conditions created by the remnants of the Sutro Bathhouse.
Since the demolition and abandonment of the bathhouse,
several wetland marshes have flourished. Fresh water, originating from seeps in the eastern hillside, collects in the basins left by what were once retaining pools for the bathhouse complex. As each basin overflows, the fresh water continues to trickle down the hillside where over time it has refilled the foundations of the bathing pools. Both of the smaller marshes on the hillside support a variety of plant life such as rushes, calla lilies, nasturtium, cattails, and more. The wetland ringing the pool foundations with its proximity to the ocean has slightly brackish conditions that are home to more saline resistant species such as watercress, salt grass, and green algae. Beyond the reach of the freshwater and in more exposed portions of the eastern slope, sturdier vegetation such as weeds, thistles, and shrubs populate the hillside. Further to north and east, a non-native cypress forest planted as part of Sutroâ€™s landscaping dominates the ridge with dramatic windswept trunks and a thin flat canopy. The wind-swept cliffs flanking the site to the north and south support some species of ruderal succulents, the rocky surfaces are largely barren.
The distribution of vegetation provides food and habitats for
a variety of insect and animal life. The wetland provides a resting and bathing area for several species of migratory waterfowl, and the seep marshes provide cover for a variety of songbirds. Small mammals and amphibians are also commonly seen on the eastern slope, attracted by the freshwater and insects. In turn, the smaller prey attract larger predators such as peregrine falcons and the occasional fox.12 12 For a full list of present plant and animal wildlife presiding in the Sutro Baths region, refer to Appendices A and B of the â€œSutro Historic District Comprehensive Design and Environmental Assessment.â€? prepared by EDAW in San Francisco, California: 1993.
fig. 2.22 Falcon catches snake, Sutro Baths; 2013.
Across the seawall, the local ecology is comprised almost
entirely of marine life due to the salty conditions of the ocean. Seaweed and sea grasses are swept in and out with the tide. A variety of molluscan species - such as mussels, clams, and limpets - cling to the rocks and crabs scavenge among the crevasses. Pelicans frequently swoop along the coast, resting on Fisherman’s Rock or further out on Seal Rock. True to the name, sea lions occasionally sun themselves on these sea stacks.
As a major tourist destination, and popular day spot for
locals, Land’s End Park is easily accessible. Several lines on the MUNI (Municipal transportation) travel along Geary Blvd., Balboa St., and Fulton St., providing access to Land’s End Park and the beaches located just south of the Sutro Bath site. In addition to public transportation, there is parking for private vehicles and tour buses provided along Point Lobos Ave as well as a small parking lot across the street from Louis’ Restaurant. With the addition of the new visitors center, a large area east of the site has also been converted for parking.
Once on site, the area is meant to be experienced by foot. Two
main access points- one a partially paved arc, and the other dirt stairway constructed of squared-off logs embedded in the hillside - provide entry to the landscape. These two paths meet about halfway down the slope, and shortly after split again veering towards the Points Lobos platform, the old Sutro tunnel, and an outcropping of bathhouse remains. These destinations are all fairly accessible, and the paths are easy to navigate. The partially paved path dissolves into a series of winding trails in the brush. Further exploration of the pool area requires walking on top of the foundation ruins, and anything beyond the seawall is only accessible at low tide when the beach is exposed.
The Sutro Bathhouse complex included a series of pathways
and catwalks that connected various exterior destinations. A monolithic bridge extended between a concrete ledge and Fisherman’s Rock. The sea wall was traversable and led to a catwalk following the western edge of the settling pool, crossed over the ocean pool aquarium, and connected to the platform bounding the sea water channel along the southern face fig. 2.23 Bridge Posts, Sutro Baths; 2013.
of Point Lobos. From there, a stair leads up to the platform above. The
monolithic bridge no longer exists, but the posts at either end are still standing, severely weathered sentinels that define the absence of the footbridge. Likewise, the catwalk is lost, and the whole channel is off limits because the stairs leading up to Point Lobos have crumbled and deteriorated beyond use.
Despite its raw, rugged appeal, the Sutro Baths site has been
cleared, excavated, blasted, quarried, fortified, scraped, and artificially planted and manicured. Those interventions have since been weathered, eroded, overgrown, disintegrated, and adapted.
shaped the environment, man-made development re-shaped it, and now natural processes - some of which always existed, and others which have emerged because of the ruins - are transforming it again. Natural and artificial and all their nested layers of meaning are intertwined, each one enriching the other.
fig. 2.24 Off Limits: stair leading to Point Lobos observation platform, Sutro Baths; 2013.
III. Phenomenology: A Re-presentation As a frame, the terrain is bivalent; while it surely serves to harness the site, at the same time, it opens it up, allowing it to expand and dissolve into the wider surroundings. When the philosophical text overflows and cracks apart, Derrida was to remark, it is condemned to find only other texts. When the architectural object overflows and cracks apart, it joins the natural continuum, of which it is merely one type of articulation.1 Laura Sedofsky “Peripheral Vision”
Martin Heidegger, phenomenological theorist, wrote extensively
on the metaphysical aspects of experience and place in the mid-twentieth century. It was his position that being-in-the-world meant a presence above and beyond physical habitation, and that a place was much more than its geographical location. For Heidegger, the essence of dwelling comes from harmony of he designated the fourfold. But ‘on the earth’ already means ‘under the sky’. Both of these also mean remaining before the divinities’ and include a ‘belonging to men’s being with one another’. By a primal oneness of the four -- earth and sky, divinities and mortals -belong together in one.2
In Heidegger’s analysis of dwelling, the earth is a supportive
force. It exudes a perceived stability, and work rises from it, reaching toward the sky. The sky is elusive, intangible, and symbolic of the limitless beyond. The mortals of Heidegger’s writing refer to humankind, with an emphasis on the finite aspect of humanity’s existence. To balance the temporal nature of mortality, the divinities are eternal and ever present.
In order to create harmony of the fourfold, the experience of
each aspect individually and the relationships between each must be perceivable through engagement between visitor and site. As Arnold fig. 3.1 “The Discovery of the Object” sketch by Sverre Fehn; 1992.
1 Sedofsky, Lauren. “Peripheral Vision”. In Analyzing Ambasz edited by Michael Sorkin, New York: Monacelli Press, 2004. 2 Martin Heidegger,. “Being and Time.” Rethinking Architecture. Ed Neil Leach. (New York : Routledge, 1997) 97.
Berleant, a philosopher and scholar in the field of aesthetics and place, writes, “Awareness also is growing of how encounters with the natural world can breach the boundaries of our private lives and bind us more closely to the regular and enduring patterns of nature.”3 Berleant criticizes the conventional human-environment binary and argues instead that humankind is an inseparable part of the environment. He goes on to say: [Environmental inquiries] are aesthetically relevant because all deal in some way with our perceptual experience of environment, and intrinsic perception is central to and dominant for aesthetics. This experience is not only sensory: perception has an aura to which memory, knowledge, and the conditioning and habits of the body all contribute. As inseparable dimensions of direct sensory experiences, these affect the range as well as the character of any environment, for even when we do not apprehend something directly in sensation, it can still affect us physically and so perceptually.4
It is through perception, through engaging the environmental
qualities of a place on a variety of physical and sensual layers, that corporeal experience is connected to its environment. Thus the humanenvironment relationship becomes a dialogue instead of an opposition. With this in mind, the challenge and potential for architecture is to facilitate that engagement.
Architecture must be more than a physical object in a landscape.
In the essay “The Reality of Image” phenomenologist and architect Juhani Pallasmaa writes, “We have been taught to believe that we have five senses. It is evident, however, that in addition to the five Aristotelian senses, the architectural experience calls for the senses of balance, movement, orientation, continuity, time, self, and existence.”5 This assertion begs the question, what does balance, movement, orientation, continuity, time, self, and existence detect that the traditional five senses cannot? Pallasmaa continues to say, “A great building turns our attention away 3 Arnold Berleant. Living in the Landscape: Toward an Aesthetics of Environment. (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1997) 2. 4 Ibid., 3. 5 Pallasmaa, Juhani. “The Reality of Image”. In Tom Kundig: Houses 2, by Tom Kundig, (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2005) 9.
previous: fig. 3.2 Sutro Baths; 2013.
from itself and makes us experience the world around us with focused and resensitized senses and sharpened understanding.”6 According to Pallasmaa the power of the architectural experience, and his additional senses, is its ability to communicate a richer experience of place. In The Ethical Function of Architecture, theorist Karsten Harries expands on the idea that architecture does not represent, but instead represents. “To speak of this essence, architecture has to make conspicuous the usually taken for granted and hardly noticed natural elements of building.... Such translation represents the translated element; thus translated, it draws our attention. Re-presentation makes visible.”7 (118) Harries argues that the essential function of architecture is to make the visitor view their world, and thus their existence in it, differently.
The difficulty with the theory re-presentation is that there is
no set methodology for application; its translation to a built object is dependent on the unique essence of a specific environment. To further illustrate its use in practice, let us compare three precedents in which representation is an essential factor in the perceptual experience: the land art piece “Roots” by Nils Udo, the Moses Bridge by RO & AD Architecten, and the Hedmark Museum by Sverre Fehn.
Re-presentation as an experiential strategy is common in the
work of land artists such as Nils Udo. His work, “Roots”, is a carefully excavated square of earth which exposes the intricate root system of a tree. The precise edges of the void communicate the intention of the artist to both frame the root system and contrast the man-made excavation with the organic, intricate network. Nils Udo describes the process: “It was toward the end of a dry period. For months there had been very little rain. The earth was hard like concrete. We proceeded very carefully so we would not hurt the tender roots We drained, scratched, scraped and dug for one week. After the photographs the pit was naturally again filled up.”8 6 Ibid, 11. 7 Harries, Karsten. The Ethical Function of Architecture. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1997) 118. 8 Besacier, Hubert. Nils Udo: Art in Nature. (Paris: Flammarion, 2002) 56.
Udo does not bring anything new to the site; he exposes that
which is already there - was always there - frames it and in doing so represents it to the viewer. However the transformation is not permanent; in time, the cycles of the natural environment reclaim the void and conceal the roots.
By poetically revealing the forms of the tree roots, this artwork
does more than expose a physical thing. Gouging into the ground’s mass draws attention to the presence of the soil - its dry solidity and dusty texture. As is characteristic of the earth in the fourfold, the ground is a stable entity and the tree burrows down into it as well as rises toward the sky.
Juxtaposed with the tree trunk, we are reminded that the ground
typically supports a tree and shelters its roots, and thus the void suggests a lack of shelter and a finite stability. The act of unearthing, or unearthing, the roots creates a tension. The precise geometry of the void is definitively un-natural. It marks a human presence; a modification to the natural environment by man. However, that presence is fleeting and the order it imposes is only temporary.
While “Roots” is a clear example of re-presentation, it relies
primarily on the visual sense to make its point. A majority of land art is temporal in concept and thus documented through photography. As both Berleant and Pallasmaa argue, the architectural experience goes beyond the purely visual to additionally engage the body. It is in this capacity that architecture excels. One such architectural work is the Moses Bridge in Halsteren, The Netherlands designed by RO & AD Architecten.
Unlike a typical bridge, the Moses Bridge provides passage
through - not over - what was once a moat protecting the Fort de Roovere. With that singular gesture, the bridge transforms itself, its context, and most importantly the experience of using it. Through that transformation, it re-presents. The depth of the bridge corresponds with the height of the water, which not only conceals the bridge’s form but also highlights the still, steady level of the water. Entrenched in the moat, with the water’s edge inches from the lip of the handrail creates a tension that the bridge might be flooded with the slightest surge in water level, which further increases the weighty presence of the moat. By placing the fig. 3.3 “Roots” by Nils Udo; 1995.
user in direct contact with the water, it amplifies not only the mass of the moat, but also characteristics that otherwise may have gone unnoticed:
the sluggish yet constant flow, its clarity or lack thereof, its temperature and texture.
Paradoxically, the Moses Bridge gathers attention by its lack
of presence. Instead its physical form provides a bodily experience - as described by Pallasmaa - which ultimately reinforces the visitor’s place in Heidegger’s fourfold. Bridge and water intersect perpendicularly, each reinforcing the continuity and presence of the other. Moving through Left: fig. 3.4 Child on Moses Bridge. Upper Right: fig. 3.5 Moses Bridge from the south. Lower Right: fig. 3.6 Moses Bridge.
the water, by way of the bridge shifts the visitor’s relationship with the horizon and thus with the sky. Cutting into the earth, embedding the visitor in the water’s mass, simultaneously supporting and concealing. The flow of the water is a reminder of the flow of time; constant and predictable. By re-presenting the moat, the bridge simultaneously represents the visitor’s existence within the environment.
The essential quality of the Moses Bridge design is the poetic
approach to the experience between visitor and environment. Reputed for such poetics, architect Sverre Fehn is most well known for his designs which resonate with a sense of time and place. In the book Patterns
of Thought, Sverre Fehn is quoted saying “It is the eye and sound that complete one’s sense of space. It is your reflections that form space, and you discover its identity through sound and light. It does not exist before something hits it. I understand the sun’s rays through the dust particles it strikes.”9 For Fehn, a place is understood through relationships and interactions, and that is especially true of the understanding between visitor and environment.
The Hedmark Museum in Hamar, Norway is one of Sverre
Fehn’s defining works. A modern design intertwined with the ruins of a 13th century fortress, it exemplifies his ability to intertwine the present with history. In describing the design of this project Fehn said, “My interest is not to continue destroying what is already destroyed. For me this building’s history, all the marks on the ground that should not be touched, were emphasized, and it was this thought that gave birth to the ramps and the bridge.”10 The designed elements - additions such as the paths, ramps, windows, and exhibitions - are formally simple, yet employed in such a way as to enhance the experiential qualities which already exist.
The sinuous, concrete ramp appears fluid and seamless, creating
a continuous flow of movement that soars through, above, and around the ruins. In a similar manner to the way in which the Moses Bridge immerses the visitor within in the moat - with the water level nearly at the lip of the handrail - Fehn’s design of the Hedmark Museum similarly steeps the visitor in time.
In Sverre Fehn’s 1997 Pritzker Prize acceptance speech, he said
of this work, “My most important journey was perhaps into the past, in the confrontation with the Middle Age, when I built a museum among the ruins of the Bishops’ Fortress at Hamar. I realized, when working out this project, that only by manifestation of the present, you can make the past
Fig. 3.7 Hedmark Museum.
9 Fjeld, Per Olaf. Sverre Fehn: The Pattern of Thoughts. (New York: Monacelli Press, 2009) 154. 10 Ibid, 116.
speak. If you try to run after it, you will never reach it.â€?11 The materials play a large part in the dialogue between past and present; rough, bulky stone ruins come to life in comparison with smooth, clean concrete volumes, and wood gives warmth to the space. Glass and steel are used to showcase artifacts; frameless plate glass cap holes in the walls transforms the crumbling enclosures re-presents their deterioration as windows. The path winds through the building, at times passing within inches of the ruins or historic pieces of equipment, and other times stretching high above. The museum not only presents historical artifacts, but the design also re-presents the cathedral as a relic, making the journey through the ruins of the building as much a temporal experience as it is a spatial one.
Nils Udo, in scraping away the earth to reveal tree roots, made
a modification to the earth which invited further interpretation; RO & AD Architecten submerges the visitor in the physical environment and thus engages with the Fort de Roovere moat by parting its waters; Sverre Fehnâ€™s journey through the Hedmark Museum transforms the layers of history and re-presents the site as both museum and artifact. Each precedent begins with a deep understanding of the immediate environment, then makes a carefully crafted modification which represents that environment through a new perception of the work and its being in the world. To achieve a similar poetic, designed experience at the site of the Sutro Baths first requires an understanding of its profound nature.
Previous left: fig. 3.8 Hedmark Musuem compilation. Previous right: fig.3.9 Hedmark Musuem window. fig. 3.10 Hedmark Museum.
11 The Pritzker Architecture Prize, 1997 : presented to Sverre Fehn. Sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation. Los Angeles, Calif : Jensen & Walker, 1997.
A Phenomenological Analysis of the Sutro Baths Site
Each of the fundamental phenomena described in the fourfold
is present at the site of the Sutro Bathhouse ruins. The earth, in this case, is not so much a literal translation of topography, but rather the essence it exudes. Several key moments across the site communicate emphasize earth-iness of the ground: the sea stacks comprised of hard rock jutting out of the ocean invoke a sense durability, the tunnels carved beneath Point Lobos strengthen the perception of the mass and weight of the bluffs above, the foundations of the swimming pools entrenched in the land and the boulder balustrade repelling the high tides add to the strength and stability of ground.
The sky of the Fourfold is likewise not a literal definition, but
is manifest in the nuanced qualities of the atmosphere: the line of the horizon, eternally beyond reach, and the climatic elements which seem to originate from its depths. Gusts of wind traverse the site mainly from west to east churning up air cooled by the ocean. Dramatic cloud formations drift on those winds, their passage can be easily observed in the time it takes for them to glide from sea over land. The seasonal fogs that begin as a wall of vapor, easily and visually definable, engulf the site and becomes an atmosphere, experienced as much visually as through the skin by the sensation of temperature and humidity shift, the quality of sound dampens.
The ruins of the Sutro baths, embody the mortality as described
by Heidegger. They speak of the cultural layering of history at the site, but their current state communicates the fragility and temporal quality of the built environment. The remains evoke memories and represent the values and achievements of a past society. They serve as a reminder that the marks of society do not last forever and by association that the current day is e equally fleeting.
The divinities, in balance and tension with mortality, are found
in the timeless, cyclical forces continuously at work on the site. The ebb and flow of the tides is predictable and perpetual. Similarly, the changing of the seasons, marked most drastically its climatic effects (increase or decrease in rainfall, temperatures, fog intensities, etc.), is an annual cycle as old as the earth. These are factors influenced by the orbits of the earth and moon, and the constant pull of gravity. While the level of the sea
fig. 3.11 Sutro Baths; 2013.
or the character of the seasons may change with global warming, the process of alternating between a high and low tide, the shift from one season to another is beyond human influence.
Heidegger’s argument is that true dwelling can only occur when
the elements of the fourfold are in harmony, and that it architecture’s responsibility to facilitate that harmony. Applied to the site of the old Sutro Baths, the challenge then becomes to design in such a way that the built form does not conflict with the site, but instead heightens the visitor’s perception of an environment which is already steeped in memories, meanings, as well as their own existence within that harmony.
The current built context and planning of the site has largely
been skewed to emphasize cultural history – specifically that of the Sutro era. However, as Berleant, Pallasmaa, and Heidegger have argued, each in their own way, it is through awareness and engagement between visitor and the elements of the fourfold, obvious or subtle, that enriches the experience of the being immersed in the environment. The ‘divine’ or eternal cycles of wind and water eat away at the sandstone bluffs, undermining the stability of the earth by eroding the ground from under concrete slabs. The ragged edges of the ruins are thrust upward or outward from their grounded connections into the atmosphere giving physical form to relationship between mortality and sky through their weathering and exposure. These effects are essential characteristics of the landscape, yet the visitor’s ability to engage with them is limited.
In recent years, architecture has begun to appropriate the
principles of landscape architecture in an effort to connect the built and natural environments. There is a general assumption that because landscape architecture is more closely linked to nature because of the mediums used in landscape design. A leading figure in the field of landscape architectural theory, James Corner, explains that landscape design is every bit as artificial and constructed as the rest of the built environment. Instead the real power of landscape, Corner argues, is its ability to recover lost layers of meaning in a given site: Thus the reclaiming of sites might be measured in three ways: first, in terms of the retrieval of memory and cultural enrichment
of place and time; second, in terms of social program and utility, as new uses and activities are developed; and, third, in terms of ecological diversification and succession. In this threefold way, the inventive traditions of landscape architecture actively renew the significance of those cultural and natural processes that undergird the richness of all life on earth.12
The Sutro Baths site has numerous layers of meaning of varying
intensities in constant interaction. The absence or difficulty in perceiving many of these layers of symbolism, natural cycles, new and adaptive ecosystems, etc. hinders a complete interpretation of the site, concealing its richness as a place. Similar to the capability of landscape, put forth by Corner, architecture can reclaim and reveal notions of place through revealing layers of meaning embedded within its environment. The Sutro Baths ruins provide excellent potential for reclaiming site: engaging with the current state of the ruins speaks to the ‘cultural enrichment of place and time’, providing legible destinations and points of interaction facilitates ‘social program and utility’, and lastly ‘ecological diversification and succession’ is a process already underway that could be fostered and emphasized through an architectural experience.
12 James Corner, ed. Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture. (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999) 13.
IV. Tectonics of the Built and Natural Environments Nature, in this sense, is not seen as an indifferent, inscrutable force or a divine cycle of creation, but rather as a collection of material things whose reasons and relations architecture has the task of revealing.1 Vittorio Gregotti “Territory and Architecture”
In order to address the design challenges inherent with the
Sutro Baths site, it is important to understand the conceptual point of interaction between environment and architecture. Vittorio Gregotti, a practicing architect and major figure in the field of tectonics, writes, “It is modification which transforms place into architecture and establishes the original symbolic act of making contact with the earth, with the physical environment, with the idea of nature as a totality.”2 Gregotti asserts that is the initial marking of the ground which begins the primordial, creative act. That act bestows new meaning or marks a previously concealed meaning, thus signifying a space as a place.
Based on Gregotti’s logic, architecture considered as a form
of modification, as a marker, embodies the fundamental connection between the act of making and the site. Frampton also alludes to this in his writings on the poetics of construction, wherein he evokes the Greek root of the word poesis meaning the act of making or revealing.3 Therefore the process of constructing architecture is more than a simple assembly of parts – it is a method of enhancing the meaning which underlies the importance of place. Frampton touches on this in his discussion of objects: In this regard it is possible to identify three distinct conditions: 1) the technical object, which arises directly out of meeting an instrumental need; 2) the scenographic object, which may be 1 Vittorio Gregotti. “Territory and Architecture.” in Kate Nesbitt, ed., Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture. (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996), 341. fig. 4.1 Projecting concrete beam, Sutro Baths; 2013.
2 In this instance Gregotti uses the term “place” as synonymous with location. Gregotti, Vittorio. “Territory and Architecture.” (In Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture, edited by Kate Nesbitt. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996.) 342. 3 Frampton, Labor, Work, and Architecture, 92
used equally to allude to an absent or hidden element; and 3) the tectonic object, which appears in two modes. We may refer to these modes as the ontological and the representational tectonic. The first involves a constructional element that is shaped so as to emphasize its static role and cultural status.... The second mode involves the representation of a constructional element which is present but hidden.4
In Frampton’s description of both the ontological and
representational tectonic modes he goes on to give examples of architectural components and joinery created by craftsmen, however, there is no mention of the creative or destructive capacity of natural forces. Cycles of sun, wind, and water are formative (although often perceived as destructive instead of constructive), but overlooked. What about the moment where built construction comes into contact with soil, with air, with water, and all the minerals, particles, spores, etc, that are unavoidable in any given environment? Why not conceive of the physical manifestation of those interactions as building materials? Karsten Harries asserts, “Re-presenting its materials, the work of architecture reveals its being. Such revelation requires that materials are worked in a way that invites us to step back from our usual involvement with things.”5 By anticipating the textures resulting from natural cycles on a built object, those effects in turn re-present the architectural object.
The typical approach by conventional architecture to elemental
conditions in the environment is to repel, conceal, or ignore. Frampton goes on to say, “There is spiritual value residing in the ‘thingness’ of the constructed object, so much so that the generic joint becomes a point of ontological condensation rather than a mere connection.”6 The meeting point between two or more materials is more than a functional connection – it communicates the process of assembly which in turn speaks to the creation and subsequent being of the work. Equally important as the joint is the lack of a joint. “Meaning may be thus encoded through the interplay between ‘joint’ and ‘break’, and in this regard rupture 4 Ibid., 94. fig. 4.2 Corroded Handrail, Sutro Baths; 2013.
5 Harries, Karsten. The Ethical Function of Architecture. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1997) 121. 6 Frampton Labor, Work and Architecture, 95
may have just as much meaning as connection.”7 Through the careful and intentional design of these moments architecture presences itself. Therefore, it goes to reason, that the joint (or rupture) between a material and its environment would enhance the relationship between the built object’s physical presence and sense of place.
Effects such as staining, fading, patinating, corrosion,
vegetative growth, etc are conventionally viewed as faults in the design or maintenance. In On Weathering: the Life of Buildings in Time Mohen Mostafavi and David Leatherbarrow re-examine the design potential of such processes. “In the process of subtracting the ‘finish’ of a construction, weathering adds the ‘finish of the environment.” (Mostafavi 16) By anticipating and intending this additional finish, architects can detail these effects as though they are a physical joint between built and natural components. As Mostafavi and Leatherbarrow argue, weathering is much more than a deleterious side effect, “Paradoxically, weathering produces something already there by subtraction. This exchanges the roles of art and nature. In design, art is assumed to be the power or agency that forms nature; in the life or time of a construction, however, nature reforms the ‘finished’ artwork.”8 Weathering is an inevitable process, with results specific to the materials and the immediate environmental conditions. Mostafavi and Leatherbarrow continue to say, “In the time after construction, buildings take on the qualities of the place wherein they are sited, their colors and surface textures being modified by and in turn modifying those of the surrounding landscape.”9
If, as Gregotti argued, architecture gives
significance through modification of its physical environment, then the same logic can be applied to Mostafavi’s and Leatherbarrow’s writing on weathering: architecture gains significance through being modified in turn by the elements of its environment.
The ruins of the Sutro Baths are emblematic of the way
architecture and the local environment are filled with intertwining layers 7 Ibid., 102.
8 Mohsen Mostafavi and David Leatherbarrow. On Weathering: the Life of Buildings in Time. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993) 64. 9 Ibid., 68.
fig. 4.3 Exposed Column, Sutro Baths; 2013.
of memories, time, sensual qualities, and natural cycles. The site is not exactly natural, nor is it entirely man-made; it cannot be accurately represented with figures in black or ground in white, but the allure is in its existence as a gradient. To tap into this matrix of meanings, to reveal the strong notions of place inherently embedded in this site, requires an architectural approach which also blends in and joins built object with natural process. The elemental forces of nature are universal and inevitable â€“ they will interact with any constructed object built at any site, and yet the resulting effects of these forces are unique depending on the type and application of materials and their relationship with the immediate conditions of their environment. By understanding and engaging with these processes, architecture can anticipate the effects of its environment, age and weather with its site, and in doing so architecture becomes an instrumental agent in the experience of place.
previous: fig. 4.4 Disintegrating Steel, Sutro Baths; 2013. fig. 4.5 Seeping Growth, Sutro Baths; 2013.
V. Thesis Design Project Not only is there no convenient recipe for place making, but the abstract visual techniques that the stock-in-trade of architectural design, such as the plan, elevation, party, model, and computer-generated simulations, at best partial and more often misleading. 1 Arnold Berleant Aesthetics in Place
It is important to stress that this thesis is not about the final
designed object; it is about a design process which takes a phenomenological approach to the relationship between a built and natural environment. To this end, standard methods of architectural representation cannot adequately communicate that process. Conventional elevations, sections, and plans are typically placeless in that they do not portray all of the levels of meaning and significance that influence the design they describe. In practice, such methods of representation function as a set of instructions for construction. However, as a student with no expectations for built realization, this project becomes less about representing a design and more about re-presenting the process of design through the integration of modeling and mapping.*
Maps are most commonly thought of as geographical tools,
however they do not have to be spatial in nature. In The Agency of
Mapping, James Corner describes the use of maps: As a creative practice, mapping precipitates its most productive effects through a finding that is also a founding; its agency lies in neither reproduction nor imposition but rather in uncovering realities previously unseen or unimagined, even across seemingly exhausted grounds. Thus, mapping unfolds potential; it re-makes territory over and over again, each time with new and diverse consequences.2 In this sense, the act of mapping holds equal, if not more, creative fig. 5.1 “The Process of Design” by Damien Newman, Central Office of Design.
1 Arnold Berleant. “Aesthetics of Place.” Constructing Place: Mind and Matter. Ed Sarah Menin. (New York: Routledge, 2003) 52. 2 Corner, James. “The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention” (in Mappings, edited by Denis Cosgrove. London: Reakton Books, 1999) 213.
potential than the resulting map. Its value is in the process, and the process is embodied in the result. The following is a recounting of the process, but it is important to note that it did not develop in a purely linear fashion the way such a written narrative implies.
The mapping process began at the largest scale: the site. As
discussed in Part II, the landscape has undergone drastic changes since the destruction of the bath house. Within the site there are three regions which correspond with significant moments in the historic experiential sequence of the bath house: the grand promenade, the pools, and an exploratory path.
Each region has been shaped by a predominant,
natural cycle reacting to a constructed condition of the Sutro bath house remains. At the site scale, this design project seeks to create a continuous flow, akin to the design intent of the Sutro Bath house. At the scale of the architectural detail, each leg of the journey re-presents the predominate, natural cycles shaping each region. In the same order: the hydrological cycle, new growth, and the tidal cycle. The process for each region, from site to detail, is documented in each panel of the final map.
fig. 5.2 Sutro Baths Map. Digital Production.
The Grand Promenade: Hydrological Cycle
Excavated, blasted, and landscape into a tiered topography,
the eastern slope was shaped to take advantage of the , freshwater seeps. Prior to development, water trickled down the hillside, largely unnoticed under the brush or in the form of ground water and eventually drained into the ocean. After Sutroâ€™s construction, those seeps collected in freshwater retaining pools used to augment the saltwater baths and feed a singular freshwater bath. Today, freshwater continues to collect in those areas, traveling mostly underground. However, due to the limited access to the hillside, the existence of seeping freshwater goes largely unnoticed. Its continued presence is most visible through its effect on the vegetation. Most of the hillside is covered in a carpet of windswept brush and hardy shrubs. However, pockets of lush greenery and greater variety of plant species indicate what used to be reservoirs and are now more sheltered areas of the hill where water collects.
Whether occurring naturally, or altered by human
intervention, the runoff of freshwater is part of an endless hydrological cycle:. Water evaporates from the ocean, collects in the form of clouds, fog, or humidity, travels inland where it precipitates, filling the water table of the earth which eventually overflows back to the sea. In a site where ocean and fog are powerfully perceived, revealing the runoff of water back to the ocean completes perception of the entire cycle.
Using the flow of water as a metaphor for the movement of
people, the promenade begins as a subtle integrated ramp and stair stretching across the retaining wall at the eastern edge of the site. Currently, the wall forces visitors to walk around the periphery of the site, to observe from a distance rather than engage. By puncturing that wall, and using wide, shallow treads visitors are encouraged to spill over the edge of the parking lot and slowly filter towards the promenade.
The main descent into the landscape is intended to reclaim
experiential aspects of the promenade to the Sutro Bath House. The stair is linear and directly pierces to the heart of the site. Its slow is fig. 5.3 Hydrological Cycle diagram. Sketch.
rhythmic and regular which further emphasizes the undulation of the stepped topography in comparison. Close to the beginning, the
fig. 5.4 Sutro Baths Vestibule looking East; unknown date. right: fig. 5.5 Current Day Site of Vestibule looking East, Sutro Baths; 2013.
stairs largely project out of the hillside, and the stacked detailing of the concrete planks is inspired by the slabs of foundations cantilevering out from the bluffs nearby. The emphasis on horizontal joints heightens awareness of that projection.
While made out of concrete, the promenade is not intended to
read as monolithic, thus pulling apart the weave of units - exaggerating reveals and gaps - gives the stair a porous character. As the first tier in the landscape begins to flatten, the promenade maintains its slope and cuts a channel into the ground, eventually piercing under an existing pathway. Submerged, the porous nature of the design allows for the fresh ground water to seep down the walls of the promenade, dripping and trickling along the joint lines and eventually passing under the visitors feet in its journey down the hillside. At the moment where the promenade passes under the existing path, the joint lines shift highlighting the horizontal to emphasizing the vertical. This change in detail is subtle, but intended to tap into what Karsten Harries refers to as the natural language of space: That this particular configuration of verticals and horizontals moves and speaks to us presupposes what I shall call the natural language of space. This natural language has its foundation in the way human beings exist in the world, embodied and mortal, under the sky and on the earth; it is bound up with the experiences of rising and falling, of getting up and lying down, of height and of depth. 3
The horizontal striation of the promenade reaches forward,
urging movement; the trickling of water perpendicular to those lines reinforces the notion of gravity and weight, marking a descent through the horizontal strata. The vertical joint lines rise from the ground, guiding the eye towards the soil supported above increasing its presence and heaviness.
After being compressed by the tunnel, visitors are once again
released as the descent to the second tier in the landscape. At this point they are at eye level with the lush outcrop of vegetation thriving 3 Harries, Karsten. The Ethical Function of Architecture. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1997) 125.
previous: fig. 5.6 Sutro Baths; 2013. over: fig. 5.7 Hydrological Cycle/ East Slope/Promenade Process Map, Digital Collage.
in what was once a second retaining pool. Continuing downward, the stair remains consistent in direction even as the topography shifts again digging into the bluffs on its south face and open on the north as the ground slopes steeply away. Water continues to filter through the wall and spill out the open face in its endless cycle from hill to ocean.
Eventually, the promenade ends in a monolithic plinth resting
in the wetland environment of what were once the Sutro Bath pools. At the western edge of the plinth, a last leg of stairs dive into the wetland, although these are not intended as a literal path. With the entry to the site as a metaphor for the movement of water, these treads mark the moment where that water becomes wetland.
The Pools: New Growth
The monolithic plinth which serves as the ending point for the
promenade, is also the launching point for experiencing the wetland environment at the base of the site. In the original design of the Sutro Bath House, there were a total of six pools. Five were of equal size and varying temperatures, while the sixth was unheated and much larger, forming an â€œLâ€? wrapping around the others. The more delicate elements of the building - such as the wood and steel scaffolding around the pools - were destroyed by a combination of demolition and fire, the massive concrete foundations remain.
This area of this site is perhaps the most dramatic instance of
natural cycles reclaiming built elements as the concrete foundations are entirely submerged. The gradual erosion of the eastern slope is evident in the ruins of retain walls slumping forward under the weight of the earth. The creeping soil has covered the eastern most portion of the pool foundations and begun to fill in their depths. The groundwater seeping down the hillside is retained by the sea wall and forms a fairly still body of water which covers what remains of the pool walls. Before Sutro developed the site, this area was a largely barren,sandy beach; today it is a lush wetland. This transformation is the manifestation the natural process of new growth: wherever conditions to support live occur, life will grow in one form or another. In this case, that process is evident in the variety of forms from the flourishing of bacteria to the growth large scale vegetation and the animal life it supports. What makes this particular example of new growth unique is the subtle beauty and presence of the pool foundations noted in the behavior of the wetland environment.
At the edge of the wetland, where the muck and earth is most
solid, dense groves of reeds and grasses dominate the plant palette. As standing water begins to gain depth, the plant species change dramatically as certain organisms thrive at certain depths. Grasses transition to reeds, which become dark green with scums and bacteria, and which in turn eventually give way to floating colonies of fluorescent green algae. As the depth of water changes based on the existence of the pool foundations, the patterns of natural growth conform to vaguely fig. 5.8 Growth Cycle diagram, Sketch.
rectangular arrangements, hinting at the un-natural construction hovering below the surface. 77
fig. 5.9 Interior of Sutro Baths; unknown date. right: fig. 5.10 Current Day Site of Pools, Sutro Baths; 2013.
This leg of the journey is not meant to represent the Sutro
Baths, or recreate the pools in any literal sense. Instead, the purpose of intervening with a designed path at this moment in the landscape is to re-present what the pools have become. As the term re-present implies, the intention is to call attention to conditions which already exist by pulling them out of the everyday and displaying them to the visitor. Beginning at the plinth, a path sinks into the soft soil of the wetland. Both promenade and sunken path are made of concrete, but the difference in material articulation signifies a shift in the perceptual experience. The sunken path - embedded in the earth - is more monolithic in character, finished with the rough texture of board formed concrete. The vertical imprints left by the boards hint at a downward direction reinforcing the notion that the path is pushing down into the wetland.
On center with each of the smaller pools is a nook where the
path subtly swells, inviting the visitor pause and look more closely. By placing the visitor at waist height with the water level, the algae are within armâ€™s reach and the concrete foundations hovering just under the surface become more visible. To highlight the ability of new growth to occur, spouts puncture the sunken path just below the water level in the center of each nook, allowing a small trickle of water to flow down the board formed concrete surface , collect at the base and drain along the length of the sunken path. Over time, new growth will occur at these moments. Mostafavi and Leatherbarrow assert the potential of designing intentionally for weathering: The surface of the original can be covered so completely that it disappears altogether under a patina, a time-bound â€œgrowth of skinâ€? that covers the new surface with an accumulation that represents the tension between a work of art and the conditions of its location.4
By anticipating the process of new growth framing as an
intentional material, the sunken path re-presents the forms new growth 4 Mohsen Mostafavi and David Leatherbarrow. On Weathering: the Life of Buildings in Time. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993) 64.
previous fig. 5.11 Wetland, Sutro Baths; 2013. over: fig. 5.12 Process Map: New Growth Cycle/ Pool Foundations/ Destination Process Map, Digital Collage.
with greater as a texture every bit as significant as the board-formed concrete on which it grows.
The Exploratory Path: Tidal Cycle
This region and its dynamic natural conditions were what
first caught Sutro’s attention and inspired him to develop the site. On the west edge of the bluffs, a naturally formed basalt rock shelf is consistently pummeled by the ocean waves. At high tides, the salt water rushes over the shelf and in low tides is slowly drains away again leaving behind sea life tossed up and trapped by the changing of the tides. Fascinated by this natural display of the local ecosystem, Sutro’s first modification to the site was intended to increase public awareness of the natural ecology. He tunneled a channel from the basalt shelf, piercing through the bluffs and excavated a small, tiered pool at the northern edge of the beach to serve as a mall, open-aired aquarium. At high tide, waves crashed over the rocky shelf, surged through the bluffs carrying entities of sea life and eventually coming to rest in the pool. The water would settle, deposit various forms of sea life, and gradually drain back to the ocean hissing over the rough rocks as the pull of the tides sucked the water out of the aquarium.
Sutro ultimately drilled a second tunnel north of the aquarium
to take advantage of the tidal cycle to harvest saltwater for the internal experience of his bath house. However, the initial modification to the site was intended to make a vivid, conspicuous display of the tidal cycle, and its physical and ecological ramifications, to the visitor. In doing so, Sutro aimed to educate the public, and to thereby heighten an understanding of the world around them. Even after the construction of the bath house, an exploratory circulation route wound around the exterior of the building and provided access to the aquarium, the channel, the basalt shelf, and ultimately rose up in a stair connecting to the Point Lobos observation area.
Over time, Sutro’s catwalks disappeared and the stair
crumbled. Today, the Point Lobos platform is still a major destination, but the stair and shelf is off limits, disrupting the flow of circulation and severing the visitors perception of the natural phenomena of this region. The abrupt, sharp face of the bluffs hides the basalt shelf from view of the platform, and the crashing of waves can only been seen from fig. 5.13 Tidal Cycle diagram. Sketch.
a distance d on the beach during low tide. Loose rock and debris clog the channel, limiting the flow of seawater into the tiered aquarium. The
fig. 5.14 Man Standing in a Cave near Sutro Baths; between 1968-1973. right: fig. 5.15 Current Day Blocked entrance of cave, Sutro Baths; 2013.
natural tidal cycle is constant, but its dynamic presence is severed from the visitor’s experience of the site.
In this final leg of the designed project, a steel and glass
catwalk navigates the edge of the bluffs reconnecting the aquarium, the channel, and the Point Lobos platform. To leave the deteriorating ruins untouched, the catwalk is designed to give a sensation of delicacy, like scaffolding clinging to the surface of the bluffs, perched next to the monolithic construction of Sutro’s channel and stair. The catwalk structure is made of steel, not only because for practicality but also to give a completely different experience than either the promenade or the sunken path. Each of those regions engages with the earth and represents natural processes which shape the earth: the seeping of ground water, new growth taking root and rising upward. This final leg of the design is intended to shift the visitor’s relationship with the horizon away from the earth and toward the sky. Sverre Fehn describes the horizon as a fundamental consideration in his designs” Everything we build must be adjusted in relation to the ground, thus the horizon becomes an important aspect of architecture. My interest has always been to put man in relation to the horizon in a built environment. What qualities shall he draw out of the open landscape?5
Spatially, the catwalk provides access and continuity of
movement, but its true intent is to engage the visitor’s senses. Projecting the walkway off the rocky bluffs, in essence, un-earths the visitor leaving their only bearing with the horizon. They, too, are projected off the vertical cliffside, encased only in the atmosphere of the site. Like water evaporating from the ocean, or fog colliding with the cliff face, or sea spray boucning off the rocks below, the visitor is forced to rise steeply as they scale the bluffs.In wrapping around the sheltering mass of the bluff, it puts the visitor in direct contact with the spray of the waves, the force of the wind, and the salt in the air. As water beads on rust and succumbs to gravity, it stains the stone highlighting its presence through color. 5 Fjeld, Per Olaf. Sverre Fehn: The Pattern of Thoughts. (New York: Monacelli Press, 2009) 108.
previous: fig. 5.16 Point Lobos, Sutro Baths; 2013. over: fig. 5.17 Process Map: Tidal Cycle/Point Lobos/Exploratory Path Process Map, Digital Collage.
The catwalk treads are made of cast glass. Their transparency
further distances the perception of solid ground and surrounds the visitor above and below with atmosphere. The imperfections of the material articulate the nature of glass as a product of transformation: sand which has been modified and re-presented as a new material. Its surface is pitted not only for traction, but also to provide a rough texture which bonds with the salt and minerals of the environment. The glass remains unchanged, but the surface texture quickly becomes mottled with water spots and encrusted with salt and sand. The catwalk not only facilitates physical movement but also perception as it reveals the powerful, encompassing effects of its immediate environment.
The ruins of the Sutro Baths are emblematic of the way
architecture and the local environment are filled with intertwining layers of memories, time, sensual qualities, and natural cycles. The site is not exactly natural, nor is it entirely man-made; it cannot be accurately represented with figures in black or ground in white, but the allure is in its existence as a gradient. To tap into this matrix of meanings, to reveal the strong notions of place inherently embedded in this site, requires an architectural approach which also blends in and joins built object with natural process. The elemental forces of nature are universal and inevitable â€“ they will interact with any constructed object built at any site, and yet the resulting effects of these forces are unique depending on the type and application of materials and their relationship with the immediate conditions of their environment. By understanding and engaging with these processes, this work seeks to anticipate the effects of its environment, age and weather with its site, and in doing so become an instrumental agent in the experience of place.
Image Credits fig. 2.1: San Francisco Bay Area with site marked, 2014. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.2 Exterior of Sutro Baths; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.3 Interior of Sutro Baths; unknown date. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.4 Group of swimmers; unknown date. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.5 Exterior of Sutro Baths; unknown date. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.6 Crowds gathering around a fire at Sutro Baths; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.7 Sutro Baths in Ruins after the fire; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.8 Sutro Bath ruins; 2013. Image Source: author’s own.\fig. 2.X Exterior of Sutro Baths; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.9 Sutro Baths in Ruins after the fire; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.10 Sutro Bath ruins; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.11 Exterior of Sutro Baths; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public
Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.12 Sutro Baths in Ruins after the fire; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.13 Sutro Bath ruins; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.14 Exterior of Sutro Baths overlooking the ocean; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.15 Exterior of Sutro Baths - after wrecking started; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.16 Exterior of Sutro Baths - wrecking nearly completed; 1966. Image Source: San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection. Image Source: San Francisco Public Library, http://sfpl.org/index. php?pg=0200000301 (accessed August 2013). fig. 2.17 Sutro Bath ruins; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.18 Rusted Pipe, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.19 Visitors Explore the Ruin, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.20 Concrete, Sandstone, and Sea Stacks, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.21 Sutro Baths; 2013, approximately 3:00 pm. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.22 Sutro Baths; 2013, approximately 3:45 pm the same day. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.23 Sutro Baths; 2013, approximately 4:30 pm the same day. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.24 Falcon catches snake, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own.
fig. 2.25 Bridge Posts, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 2.26 Off Limits: stair leading to Point Lobos observation platform, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 3.1 “The Discovery of the Object” sketch by Sverre Fehn; 1992. Image Source: Fjeld, Per Olaf. Sverre Fehn: The Pattern of Thoughts. (New York: Monacelli Press, 2009) 126. fig. 3.2 Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 3.3 “Roots” by Nils Udo; 1995. Image Source: Besacier, Hubert. Nils Udo: Art in Nature. (Paris: Flammarion, 2002) 56. fig. 3.4 Child on Moses Bridge. Image provided by RO&AD Architecten. fig. 3.5 Moses Bridge from the south. Image provided by RO&AD Architecten. fig. 3.6 Moses Bridge. Image provided by RO&AD Architecten. fig. 3.7 Hedmark Museum. Image Source: Fjeld, Per Olaf. Sverre Fehn: The Pattern of Thoughts. (New York: Monacelli Press, 2009) 120. fig. 3.8 Hedmark Museum compilation. Images arranged by author, image source: Almaas, Ingerid Helsing, ed. “Sverre Fehn; Projects and Reflections” (Arkitectur N; the Norwegian Review of Architecture, 2009) 10-27.
fig. 3.9 Hedmark Museum window. Image Source: Fjeld, Per Olaf. Sverre Fehn: The Pattern of Thoughts. ( New York: Monacelli Press, 2009) 106. fig. 3.10 Hedmark Museum. Image Source: Fjeld, Per Olaf. Sverre Fehn: The Pattern of Thoughts. (New York: Monacelli Press, 2009) 121. fig. 3.11 Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 4.1 Projecting concrete beam, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. Fig. 4.2 Corroded Handrail, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 4.3 Exposed Column, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 4.4 Disintegrating Steel, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 4.5 Seeping Growth, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own.
fig. 5.1 “The Process of Design” by Damien Newman, Central Office of Design. Image Source: http://v2.centralstory.com/about/squiggle (accessed October 2013). fig. 5.2 Trish Kahler: Sutro Baths Map. Digital Production. fig. 5.3 Trish Kahler: Hydrological Cycle diagram. Sketch. fig. 5.4 Sutro Baths Vestibule looking East; unknown date. fig. 5.5 Current Day Site of Vestibule looking East, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 5.6 Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 5.7 Trish Kahler: Hydrological Cycle/East Slope/Promenade Process Map, Digital Collage. fig. 5.8 Trish Kahler: Growth Cycle diagram, Sketch. fig. 5.9 Interior of Sutro Baths; unknown date. fig. 5.10 Current Day Site of Pools, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 5.11 Wetland, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 5.12 Trish Kahler: Process Map: New Growth Cycle/Pool Foundations/Destination Process Map, Digital Collage. fig. 5.13 Trish Kahler: Tidal Cycle diagram. Sketch. fig. 5.14 Man Standing in a Cave near Sutro Baths; between 1968-1973. fig. 5.15 Current Day Blocked entrance of cave, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 5.16 Point Lobos, Sutro Baths; 2013. Image Source: author’s own. fig. 5.17 Trish Kahler: Process Map: Tidal Cycle/Point Lobos/Exploratory Path Process Map, Digital Collage. fig. 5.18 Trish Kahler: Final Thesis Display.
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Engaging the Elements: A Re-presentation of the Sutro Baths