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Safe Trestles "Unveiling the Natural"

Competition Finalist for: Safe Trestles


Our approach does not hide the reality of the place, but it only wants to face it through a lineal natural form tool.

It´s a landscape that provokes all those who experience it, to become more aware of how their actions affect the environment, and to take enough care to make changes. We live in these places and we need to return to the ability to look and re-educate to landscape through the landscape itself.
A hybrid program: wildlife habitat / marsh and human habitat / path are juxtaposed at Trestles. The natural rhythms of wildlife mating and nesting positively alter the sequences in Trestles. A lineal path between the Bluff and the wetlands, changes of textures, colours, and water levels are witnessed over time, through the year.

„Art (and by extension architecture) most have begun with nature itself, as a relationship between the human being and nature, from which we cannot be separated“ 1


The surrounding site of the project covers Bluffs, wetlands and the beach of Trestles, covering almost 12 acres.

At the North of Trestles we have the Old Highway 101 and behind the San Diego Freeway Interstate 5. At the South, the Train Rail and the Trestles beach (Cotton´s, Upper Trestles, Lower trestles with the San Onofre beach, Middles trestles and Church). At the west San Matteo Creek (the most pristine stream in Southern California) and behind one of the official entry path to Trestles lowers, and the limit between San Diego County and Orange County. At the East the unofficial path to Trestles, behind the Bluff with the Lifeguard station.

The natural landscape with the wetlands seems to be segmented by the Train Rail and the Interstate 5. Having here a diverse community of plants, birdlife, mammals and reptiles., and being the last natural wildlife corridor it connects the Cleveland National Forest with the Pacific Ocean.

The site, full of History, since 1000 to 1600 AD. And was inhabited by Acjachemen tribe surviving by the Creek´s natural resources. Spanish missionaries arrived in 1769 and converted the natives into Catholicism. In 1863, San Matteo Creek flooded with enough force creating what is now known as Lowers. In 1891, the Surf-liner route of the Santa Fe Railroad Company was completed. In 1933, Bob Sides and his friends discovered the surf in Trestles. A place also used by the marines in the World War II and in the Vietnam War creating tension on the beach. In 1997, Trestles re-opened to surfers with the first surf contest.

1. Lucy R. Lippard „Gardens:Some metaphores for a Public Art“ Art in america November 1981 p. 136


The territory of trestles seems to need an open view for adventure and at the same time a discreet view for the nature that surround this landscape. The aim is to make a better opportunity for this path and landscape so enriched of nature and history.
Placed in a natural and protected context, Trestles overlooks beneath the sea coast. The landscape has been shaped with the pass of time, creating this special natural topography (bluffs, canyons and depressions), that at the same time give life opportunity to a diversity of flora and fauna.
The proposal works with topography, views and concept of the rhythm that velocity creates. Meaning by this, walking through the path we encounter ourselves with different elements, active and passive (by active we mean the highway, the train rail and activities on the beach; and by passive, the nature, so quiet and protected).

The site is a valuable ecosystem because of its environmental values as well as its aesthetic, structure and composition. The Wetlands are among the most important ecosystems on Earth. And are sometimes described as „the kidneys of the landscape“ because they function as the downstream receivers of water and waste from both natural and human sources. They stabilize water supplies, thus ameliorating both floods and drought. They have been found to clean polluted waters, protect shorelines, and recharge groundwater aquifers.

MAIN PATH: A pedestrian natural itinerary.
Trying to integrate the path into nature is the goal.
By using wood as a natural element in the path, and creating wood wall sheets, that flows with the topography until it reaches the beach of Trestles. These sheets (wooden beams) move in different positions, heights, and angles, according to the use: a bench, and information point, a protecting wall. The path has it own Rhythm followed by the concept of velocity; The path design becomes narrow and wide; active-passive.
The path design is also wide and narrow in the section, as we enter into the path we find ourselves in a wide access and then becomes narrow and the again at the end of the path wider, opening views to the beach.

The path begins in the level +62´ going down with ramps and landings until it reaches the Train rails at a level of +7´, passing under it, and then again reaching a level +9´ to the beach. The path ends with a subtle narrow line of the path.
The ramps comply with 5% slope and just a few with 8% of slope.
At the level +62´, the information point is situated at the beginning of the path, and almost at end of the path at the level +9´ the restrooms, a shower, drinking fountains, and a parking-bike lot.

We have perceived several interesting viewpoints, at the beginning of the path a complete view of Trestles, at the middle of the path having a horizontal view to the landscape as well, creating here a stop for the users, and explanations points over the place.

*We propose also that the Official entry that comes from the parking to Lowers, should have the same treatment as the proposal, using the actual slope in this path. (please see site plan)

VEGETATION: Preserve the wilderness, restore old paths and the unique views to the coast.
In the vegetation we propose to restore the current path, path proposals borders, and the unofficial paths created by the users in the wetlands.
We take advantage of the traces of the unofficial paths and the actual path and propose wooden sticks to trace them as a memorial of the natural site that has to be conserved. As time goes by, nature will cover theses sticks and the unofficial paths, showing Trestle’s users what they have been disturbing during this time.

In the old military path in the Bluff, we propose to close it and re-vegetate it with native species, and let them to establish and allow the natural succession.

a. Vegetation in the path proposal and old path (actual path): located between the Coastal sage scrub and the Willow woodland, by this we mean to use native species corresponding to each stratum.
b. Vegetation at the end of the proposal path: located in the Fresh water marsh, because we are situated in a delicate space we propose stronger vegetation borders between the path and the current vegetation, like: Arundo donax, Rhus integrifolia, Salvia mellifera, Sambucus mexicana.
c. Vegetation in the old military path: located in the Willow woodland stratum, this path has a constant slope that makes water flows forming a canal, creating a humid vegetation zone during some periods of the year, this creates a new ecosystem for flora and fauna.
d. Vegetation in the unofficial paths: located in the Fresh water marsh stratum, a delicate zone, but because of his situation in fresh water marsh its possible the natural succession of the vegetation, cleaning damage zones and prohibit the pass will let, with the pass of time, the natural grow of new flora without fragment the pass of fauna.

Use of native Vegetation
Use of local wood material

BIBLIOGRAPHY (text description and project proposal)

Ecological Reseach. Bilogical resources of the San Matteo Creek Area. By C. Robert Feldmenth, Daniel A. Guthrie, David L. Soltz, Barry A. Prigge, William J. Bond. 1987.

Wetlands. William J. Mitsch and James G. Gosselink. John Wiley & Sons ed. Canada, 2007.

Practical Conservation Water and Wetlands. Pamela Furniss and Andrew Lane. Hodder & Stoughton. London, 1992.

San Clemente Coastal Canyons and Bluffs Brochure. City of San Clemente.

Topos 63. Transformations, 2008.

Del Paisaje Reciente. España, 2006.

Dumont Zeitgenössischen Landschafts Architecture. Loft Publications. Barcelona, 2008.

Landschafts Konstruiren. Materiale, Techniken, Bauelemente. Astrid Zimmermann. Berlin, 2008.


San Onofre, California
United States

Competition Category Entered

Competition Details

  • Name: Safe Trestles
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: April 17, 2010
  • Submission Deadline: April 17, 2010
  • Entry Fee: $20
  • Award: up to 5 Finalists: each awarded Phase 2 design stipend of $5,000.00+
  • Contact: alix o
  • Status: Winners Annouced

The competition entry ID for this project is 6712.

Project Details

NAME: Safe Trestles "Unveiling the Natural"
PROJECT LEAD: Jessica Gamboa
LOCATION: San Onofre, California, United States
START DATE: February 16, 2010
PROJECT TYPE: Landscapes/Parks/Outdoor Spaces
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Eleni Tsirintani, Gabriela García, Jessica Gamboa and Maria Paula Seixas


© All Rights Reserved. This work is the copyright of the author.

About Our Partners


San Onofre Foundation is a charitable organization whose mission is to provide education, protection, and preservation for the California State Parks at San Onofre and San Clemente State Beaches.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches for all people, through conservation, activism, research and education.

Architecture for Humanity is a charitable organization that seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crisis and brings design services to communities in need. We believe that where resources and expertise are scarce, innovative, sustainable and collaborative design can make a difference.

Rebuild is the San Diego chapter of Architecture for Humanity, providing solutions to problems that face communities on a local and global level through participation in design competitions, initiating their own projects, and working together with other humanitarian and non-profit organizations.


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