Little Park, a project in New York’s Hudson River designed by a London based architectural firm called Heatherwick Studio is similar to the cove but at a larger scale compared to the little park. Now Heatherwick Studio has designed “The Cove” on the south beach waterfront of San Francisco’s piers 30-32. This beautiful place known for its tourism is visited by 24 million people every year.

San Francisco is experiencing an increase in its seawater level, due to the changes going on in the climate. It is losing its revenue from the tourism industry, due to the frequent floods taking place in its coastal areas and beaches. This site, Piers 30-32 were left abandoned for the last 36 years as a fire took place and destroyed the historic 108 years old pier decks. There are unpredictable earthquakes, floods, and sea-level rise taking place in San Francisco, which could destroy these historic decks.

Flood-resilient park The Cove for San Francisco designed by Heatherwick Studio- sheet1
The Cove Ⓒ

To rebuild and restore Piers 30-32, a horse-shoe shaped ecological park was proposed. This park covered a five-acre that is two hectares of land, along with building structures on both sides. The historic 108 years old piles supporting the deck had lost its structural strength and fallen apart, and to avoid further damage, a team of 20 members called EPX2 designed this project. The project called “The Cove” is proposed with an ecological park surrounded by 26 built structures and a boardwalk.

The Cove stands on concrete piles constructed at a height of 3 feet that is 0.9 m. This height is achieved from the predicted increase in sea level. The Cove consists of an ecological garden, a central water body that merges with the sea, an oval-shaped walkway, and 26 built structures. This structure is based on a modular system that is staggered to achieve light in the mezzanine space, these modules are workspace-like offices and retail stores.

Flood-resilient park The Cove for San Francisco designed by Heatherwick Studio- sheet2
Ecological Park Ⓒ

The ecological park, a mixed-use plaza in the center consists of a softscape growing native terpene laden trees, and dune-grasses. An oval walkway juts out of the plaza, forming a pedestrian walkway, that contains a water body that merges with the sea, that overlooks the bay. The Cove is designed as an ecological and sustainable project consisting of solar panels. The deck sits on a modern structural system of concrete piles, these piles are such that they can be replaced when required.

Flood-resilient park The Cove for San Francisco designed by Heatherwick Studio- sheet3
The Pedestrian’s Journey Ⓒ

Currently, Pier 30-32 is a huge rectangular concrete slab supported by a bay, which touches the water forming a waterfront. The design intention is to build a new seismically strong waterfront that evolves into a public gathering space. Looking at the history and context of the place, the shed from the original structure were placed along with the shape of the site. The earlier configuration also had a central water channel acting as a waterbody.

The new design layout was mirrored and aligned with the adjoining project, the new seawall project, and then a pedestrian walkway was added across the project. The linear sheds/built structure was visually cut and divided into 26 equal modules and staggered, to bring light and allow multiple tenancy and multiple functions. A  structural grid is introduced by this breaking of the sheds along with that a new facade is developed which is experienced while walking.

This park is articulated by adding a module in the beginning and connecting the site and the ground. To enhance this connection the site is formed into a horse-shoe shape by bringing in the water near the entrance. The central plaza is then connected with the terraced park that is the softscape that is further connected to the water. From this oval-shaped softscape, a ramp connects an oval-shaped bridge that is raised to allow small boats to pass through. In the center of the oval islands acting like floating stages are formed. Because of this the steps merging the park and water body become an amphitheater.

Flood-resilient park The Cove for San Francisco designed by Heatherwick Studio- sheet4
The Central Water Body Ⓒ

To make the design flood resilient, the old concrete piers are replaced with new conventional concrete piles, slightly higher than the previous one. The advantage of this height is that it makes the building shockproof and ready to respond to the sea levels. The foundation and structural elements are designed by spreading the mass of the soil. This also makes the building earthquake resilient.

At present, the anticipated height for the sea level rise is 3 feet, but with reference to further data, there are chances that this height will be increased in the entire south beach area. The project is timelined to finish in 2026, as the project will be designed and detailed out in synchronization with the Seawall and Promenade.


She is an architecture student , a dog lover , a travel enthusiast and a trekker. She is enthusiastic about writing and architecture so mixing both through architecture journalism. She has worked both in commercial architectural firms as well as a sustainable architecture firm and is juggling to find a balance between both.

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