How many times have we seen the pattern where a freeway – once the emblem of the futuristic city – has turned neighborhoods into bleak, inhuman environments? San Francisco, like many American cities, is under constant transformation and is attempting to make a more livable space out of increasingly precious land and resources. One of the city’s more interesting sections of transformation is the place where the Bay Bridge touches down and cleaves the downtown from the southern post-industrial neighborhoods. SWA Group‘s summer internship program gave 7 graduate students a chance to explore how to turn the freeway into a new “eco district” that plays a vital part in redeveloping the Central Corridor.

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Developed under guidance from city planners and SWA, the student proposals look to revitalize the raised concrete ribbon and resolve differing challenges to make the space more environmentally responsive -and a place for actual people.

Kathrin Jenkins developed the most pedestrian proposal, which would close a major street crossing the freeway to create a bike and foot path between downtown and South Beach. Along the same lines, Jessica Rossi-Mastracci routes pedestrians with large colorful plastic fences. Tim Campbell looks to reuse materials and build an elaborate park right between the overpasses with gabion cages and concrete chunks. His idea is big and bold, but it’s hard to imagine transforming the noisy environment into place to recreate. Tina Chee erects glass walls and tops surrounding buildings with grass roofs.

Jihee Chung looks below the raised platform to combine storm water treatment services and store kiosks to make a sort of futuristic shopping/water park. All of the designs are pretty cool, and although they did not have the time to fully flesh out the concepts and render them to photographic realism the ideas are there – and they compliment each other as they tackle distinct design problems.

+ SWA Group