Landscapes & History
We inhabit landscapes with varying degrees of awareness as to their history. Though we may acknowledge how spaces have the capacity to change and be changed over time, we cannot often grasp the qualitative shift with which layers accumulate and dissolve, the quantitative measure with which textures change, structures are erected, artifacts are crafted and buried, by lives that begin and end with a similar cadence.
Pre-History to the 1920s
At the mouth of the Temescal Creek in the City of Emeryville, a formerly fertile fishing ground and important Native American destination dating back 3,500 years was transformed into industrial yards in the 1900’s. The late 1920’s saw the demolition of its most substantial earth form-a prominent Bay Area landmark known as a “shellmound” that was built by Native Americans and used as an elevated platform above the adjacent wetlands during the year, as well as a burial ground. The 1970’s and 80’s witnessed the demise of many of the industries begun in the 1920s, as the City of Emeryville entered into a period of expansion and development that to this day reclaims many of these often toxic sites.
A Historically Responsible Memorialization
The Emeryville Shellmound Project presents the city with a powerful metaphor with which to synthesize the project’s contemporary context with the site’s unique history. By harnessing the imagery and presence of the shellmound, the natural history of the Temescal Creek, and the cultural context of Native Americans renown for their mastery of weaving technology in harmony with their environment, it is possible to arrive at a successful design that is historically responsible, as much as it is relevant and sensitive to the time and the space it occupies in our memory.