November, 2015

In this issue, we present SAN MATEO SHORE UP  - an upgraded Waste Water Treatment Plant that is playfully attractive and excites the spirit..


Industrial sites are intriguing to blinkLAB because our interest is typological transformation through an examination of complex performance requirements.  As a result, our process seeks to find the confluence of ecology, economy, understanding the desires of people and the management of resources into finely-tuned eco-engines.  At the core is always a new vision for nature.

San Mateo's efforts should be commended as just a few weeks later, this video of Seattle's waterfront facing the effects of king tides provides an indication of predicted impacts to Bay Area shoreline residential, commercial and industrial facilities.
Nov 23: The strong winds and king tides created crashing waves onto the shores of  Alk Beach, on Seattle's shoreline.




So much of sustainable design discussions are surrounded by a foreboding shadow.  This design recalibrates society's relationship to water through the creation of a space that mixes non-traditional ingredients and generates an environment which is both practical and aesthetically relevant.

blink!LAB is a research-based practice where each project advances on past achievements.  In this instance, Shore UP progresses achievements made at Mountain View's NASA Ames Sustainability Base. The NASA project was directed by June Grant while at AECOM where her team delivered an office building which reduced potable water needs by 88%. Here we complete the wastewater cycle - from toilet to tap.

Collaborating with Hoffman Design and Populous, our team's proposal, San Mateo Shore UP, is a healthy study of sustainable design that embraces production, socio-economic and environmental innovation. 



Heavy infrastructure is under-appreciated. However, by mixing industry, circulation, flow, farming and sports into a distorted land-form, we created an urban condition that is generous to the surrounding residents and invites public participation.  
The design allows public spaces to invade the typically private spaces of the treatment plant. The result is a place for the spontaneity of social encounters where the environment, ecology and community are integrated into an urban industrial experience.

San Mateo Shore UP is more than a wastewater treatment plant.  It is an econo-engine - a site that produces drinking water, natural gas for the national grid, solids for the agricultural industry, treats water using plants as well as allows for interactive education.   
The facility's EFTE plastic domes ware equipped with embedded solar panels taking full advantage of the site's clear, un-impeded sky access.


It is important that we look to understand the environment as an ecology - the relationship of systems that connect to a very complex physical organism. Decades after dredging natural wetlands for development, today utilities, heavy industries, schools, governments, emergency services, as well as stormwater and sewer lines are within the zones of imminent threat from rising seas.  

Eco-Engine 1:  Examine the available natural resources, historic wetlands and compare against predictions of the future to locate opportunity for change. The land is gently stepped to +13ft above existing water levels.  

Eco-Engine 2:  Reduce footprint through alternative technologies. The vertical VERTREAT treatment system reduces the treatment footprint requirement to 30% of typical space needs of a horizontal system.  That reduction permitted the introduction of portable water treatment on site, as well as other new revenue opportunities such as a natural gas station pump.  


row left:    1870 historic wetlands - our natural barriers, now fully developed     
row right:  2100 predicted Sea Levels and existing service providers
middle:     Site strategies, existing site and new optimized site plan with levee
bottom:    The eco-infrastructure includes plant-based technology, solar and natural gas energy production

Defensive Land Strategy - Divide, Elevate, Integrate...
Can we reconnect the city to the edge + demystify wastewater in a fun and exciting way? 


Site features and layout are both linear and three-dimensional.  This strategy allowed us to weave and expose the varies stages of the waste treatment process by integrating points for public access.

Eco-engine 3:  Provide a density of synergistic but also un-expected activities in order to produce a woven tapestry of mixed uses, organic patterns and un-predicated associations.



San Mateo Shore UP is designed to treat municipal water through natural wetland processes, as well as engage residents and visitors with dynamic outdoor programming as sea levels rise through the end of the century.  To do so the design team approached the outdoor water treatment wetland area and waste water treatment buildings as a cohesive landscape, separated into five primary zones set at different elevations rising up from the edge of the bay.  Together, the five zones become a horizontal levee that performs as a protective barrier, educational resource, ecological habitat and engaging public space.  

Zone 1 is placed at 13 feet above existing water levels. This zone is designed for final-stages of the waste water treatment cycle.  Uses include ag-farm and educational activities focused on water.
Zones 2 and 3 - 11 feet  and 9 feet above existing water levels.  Clean water is transferred from Zone 1 to Zone 2 permitting further interaction and agricultural uses.  Zone 3 is designed for recreational activities such as bird-watching, kite-flying and other "closer to nature" experiences.
Zone 4 - 5 ft above existing water levels.  This lowland zone is designed to further encourage bird-nesting and naturally occurring ecological activities. 
Walls and paths are set at higher elevations than the zones between. This creates a context where land uses adapt as sea levels rise.  

Come 2050, high tides (which are approximated at 9 feet) will come up to the eastern barrier wall of Zone 3.  By 2100, high tides estimated to be 13 feet, will extend to the edge of the western wall of Zone 2.

The result is a resilient and still functioning wastewater treatment plant that withstands changes in our coastal environment.  San Mateo Shore UP is ready for the future.  


more !WATER


Outdated infrastructure and neglected bay wetlands leave our homes, businesses and cities vulnerable, we believe these are opportunities to design a more natural and dynamic future. 

Click image below for interactive map of Sea Level Rise predictions

!LAB partners



This month developed new friendships and renewed old relationships.  Integral to the San Mateo final design proposal were Johanna Hoffman of Hoffman Design and Populous (Alma DuSolier + Todd Kohli).  Working with agility and commitment we created a design solution which revealed a paradigm shift in how utility sites must upgrade and evolve to meet our uncertain future.




blink!LAB partnered with Group 4 Architecture and friendly giant, Gensler, in the pursuit of the Alameda County Master Plan for Social Services and Library Services. Our interest in sustainable innovation, and spatial communication supported by our deep community engagement made the team a winning partnership.  blink!LAB is looking forward to working closely with Alameda County to better serve our mutual clients.  

Call us at anytime.  We are always open to collaboration.



DECEMBER: Vertical Housing, Performance, and Fabrication



blink!LAB architecture is always interested in collaborating.  We are a SBEMBE, and WBE.

June A. Grant, Principal
Copyright © 2015 BLINK-LAB architecture, All rights reserved.

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