Urban Spring

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Designer: Bionic, USA

Urban water systems are commonly suppressed as a standard practice or in favor of other site program. At a micro scale this project challenges this widespread convention through logistical and material strategies, and inventive site specific devices to generate a nuanced ecological and programmatic composition. The yard is small-25’ x 50’. It is shady, slopes 12 vertical feet, and a spring emerges from a vein of clay in the heavy soils beneath the surface. The base flow of the spring is equal to the diameter of a pencil. The owners wanted functional living spaces for exercise, entertaining, imaginative kids play, experimenting, and art projects to be combined in the garden with the spring and its design potential. The project occurred in conjunction with a house renovation, but the budget for the garden was limited. In the initial phases surplus and waste materials from the building construction such as waste concrete (footings), excavated soils (lawn), steel (stairs), and wood off cuts (decks) were captured to create a basic site organization around the spring for grade changes, circulation, and the movement of materials. The rest of the garden was built incrementally over 8 years. These factors lead to formal tectonics, details, materials, and plantings that express modest durability. Despite the small size of the site, the resulting composition demonstrates the life enabling possibilities of inventive design in combination with urban waters as it fulfills the unique program for the family in concert with a surprising amount of activity from urban wildlife.