Augmented Tides


Augmented Tides


Rafael Berges
California College of the Arts

Jared Clifton
California College of the Arts


Margaret Ikeda
California College of the Arts

Evan Jones
California College of the Arts

Adam Marcus
California College of the Arts



This winning design is a rich elaboration of ecological conditions and treatments in the restoration of a sensitive location, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, CA. The building works as an elegant environmental machine using water throughout the design. The students did a wonderful job of making it a destination while conceiving what looks like a sophisticated water-processing plant.


Design & Innovation

Augmented Tides proposes a research and education center dedicated to intertidal species. The building's systems are inspired by the sustainable processes found in natural wetlands to conserve water and foster animal, plant, and human life. In doing so, the project brings the community closer to the natural processes that occur everyday but are typically absent in city life. The building's design responds to the tidal changes throughout the day and capitalizes on ways to use the tides for cultural and performance purposes. The building filters seawater through its wetlands and visualizes the process for visitors to the site. This fulfills an important part of the center's educational purpose: if visitors understand how the process works they can better appreciate the importance of sustainable design inspired by nature.

Regional & Community Design

The building is an interface between an urban site and a marshland, and brackets certain zones to serve as microenvironments that foster varying plant, animal, and human ecologies. The research and educational program is wrapped along the perimeter of the inlet and encloses research labs and classrooms. The tidal marshland is located between both the research and education spaces. Visitors can walk directly out onto the marshes and explore what is growing there without having to go inside. Classrooms include large flex spaces at water level that expand at low tide and contract back into the enclosure at high tide. These "tidal classrooms" are meant to encourage awareness of the way tides change through the day. The design brings the public to the San Francisco Bay to experience the way its ecosystems grow on a daily basis. 

Land Use & Site Ecology

The site, Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, was designed as a restorative tidal wetland that includes mud flats, salt marshes, and eel grass beds. The park, surrounded by the Port of Oakland, is a rare place where the local community can connect with the San Francisco Bay and its tidal ecologies. The building is sited at an existing inlet on the south side of the park, and is adapted from the park's 1999 Master Plan, which called for an ecological education center. Prefabricated, structural fiber-reinforced polymer containers are mounted on columns at different heights above and below water level to reflect the different intertidal zones that naturally occur in tidal marshlands. The project is a living tidal landscape that will foster the growth of many tidal ecosystems.

Energy Flows & Energy Future

The building employs a number of passive systems in its water cycles as well as in its daylighting strategies. The water plenum uses the natural force of the tides coming in to pump water up to the marshlands. Gravity then circulates this salt water downwards through the different levels and eventually to sea as cleaned salt water.

The system uses the natural processes of the tides and the filtration capacities of marshlands to filter water without using electricity. The polishing ponds on the roof naturally filter treated blackwater into greywater for use in the building to conserve as much water as possible. The project maximizes the natural capacity of the marshland to filter water throughout the building.

Water Cycles

The proposed scheme deploys fresh and salt water in two separate loops. Filtration columns pump treated blackwater up to the roof, channeling it through integrated troughs that migrate through polishing ponds that naturally filter water. Once the water migrates to the opposite end of the roof, filtration columns bring the water back down to a grey water collection cistern for radiant heating and toilet use.

The second cycle involves pumping salt water up through tidal columns within the inlet. At high tide, the water plenum fills with water, which is pumped upwards to continually refill the artificial salt marshes. Water migrates through the integrated troughs to the lower levels, and then back out to sea as cleaned salt water.

Bioclimatic Design

The massing of the building surrounds the entire inlet, with most of the overhangs located on the east for effective shading through most of the day, providing comfortable working spaces for the research labs and classrooms. Education and research programs are located along bars to the east and west to capitalize on a range of natural lighting conditions. Large exterior roof overhangs prevent excessive solar gain inside.

Light & Air

The project foregrounds the natural tidal occurrences of the site while also creating architecture that acts as a backdrop to the plant, animal, and human ecologies staged within it. Most of the exterior facades consist of glazed curtain walls, which allow occupants 360-degree views of the surrounding Bay. The building uses numerous overhangs to provide shading inside while preserving surrounding views.

For the majority of the year, prevailing winds come in from the west. The vertical layering of tidal columns, the porosity of programs, and the narrow organization allows natural ventilation to enter and flow through the building unimpeded. The enclosure system includes operable win­dows that allow air to flow in low to the ground and out high towards the ceiling for effective cross ventilation within all enclosed spaces.

Long Life, Loose Fit

The design allows for ecological change and growth over time in multiple ways. First, as sea levels rise, the design allows ecosystems to adapt by moving to higher tidal columns. Second, research containers can be raised and lowered with a pulley system to allow for maximum adaptability for scientists testing species above and below water. Third, tidal classrooms at water level will change throughout the day with tidal change, encouraging inhabitants to program their activities around the movement of the tides.

Furthermore, the prefabricated units can scale to other sites: the tidal columns can be easily disassembled and installed at other locations. The tidal columns can be placed along coastlines to research how sea level rise is affecting local plant and animal ecologies. If they are grouped together, they can dissipate waves during storm surges, offering a more resilient alternative to concrete barriers typically used for this purpose.


Collective Wisdom & Feedback Loops

Our studio worked closely with professional consultants throughout the semester. We met with marine biologists, the Port of Oakland regulatory boards, fiberglass fabricators, structural engineers, building energy specialists, and a naval architect. By the end of the semester, we had learned to refine our initial design proposals with the feedback from the specialists to produce cohesive and ecologically minded design proposals. Through post-occupancy, the tidal columns would need to be evaluated to make sure that enough water is being pumped up to support plant and animal life, how quickly this water is evaporating, and to what extent the water is being heated by the sun. Input from consulting biologists confirmed that the continuous circulation of salt water would be an effective way to ensure that the tidal pools would remain cool, thereby preventing them from becoming anoxic (low levels of oxygen) and harmful to plant and animal species. By constantly pumping up water during high tide, the scientists concluded that the plants and animals we proposed would thrive within this sort of artificial wetland environment.

Materials & Construction

Structural fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP, or fiberglass) was selected as the primary material for both the tidal pools and the building's roof structure. FRP is lightweight, it does not corrode in marine applications, and it is highly customizable through the use of digital fabrication processes. The folded form of the basic FRP module emerged from a desire to avoid the use of steel because of its added weight and tendency to corrode; the large ripple in the middle serves as a folded beam that provides additional structural capacity. Furthermore, the units can be stacked when shipped from the fabrication facility to our site. The full-scale FRP prototype demonstrates a finer grained scale at which the geometry of the fiberglass is optimized (based on input from consulting biologists) to aggregate plant and animal life within the crevices of the submerged research containers. In addition to varying the depths of each of the modules, the surface varies to respond to different plant and animal ecologies.