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Natural Scheme

Competition Finalist for: Safe Trestles

Trestles is an epic wave situated in a pristine environmental sanctuary. An inherent conflict exists between the experience of the surfers, who view Trestles as a secluded, spiritual place where there is an element of adventure in getting to it, and the need to provide environmentally sensitive, safe and ADA-compliant access for the broader community.

The Natural Scheme creates a new sustainable path from the parking area to the beach that seeks to minimize both the visual and physical impact on the landscape and alter the experience of Trestles as little as possible. Our design objectives are to:
• Preserve and enhance the surfer’s experience
• Design an elevated path that blends and disappears into the landscape
• Protect and regenerate the coastal wetlands that have been damaged by foot traffic
• Increase safety and handicap-accessibility
• Afford better views of various surf breaks
• Minimize the design intervention
• Construct with reclaimed, recycled, local and otherwise sustainable materials

As it stretches from Corn Dog Hill, the elevated path follows the route of the existing footpaths and contours of the landscape at approximately 6 feet off the ground. This height enables plant life to grow under and around the path, enveloping the structure and obscuring it from view from the parking lot, the beach and the water. Like the existing footpaths, it curves and gently moves up and down with the topography to oppose the feeling that one is on a straight-shot ramp to the beach. The shape also helps to obscure the path ahead and behind from view and focuses one’s attention on the landscape and views of the surf.

As the path approaches the train tracks at the edge of the bluff, it widens as views of the entire beach, north and south, are revealed. This is an ideal surf lookout and turn-around point for those interested in vistas of the ocean but not committed to the full walk to the beach. At the train tracks, the elevated path levels out to a height of 26 feet above grade, curves to the north, descends and lightly touches down at the beach amidst the underbrush of the dunes in the direction of Lower Trestles. The elevated path consists of 3” thick wood planks that span between upturned tubular steel stringers. The stringers span 35’ and are in turn supported by round steel columns with two branch extensions. The column diameter increases as the height above grade increases. The wood planks will be a naturally resistant local timber and the steel will be a corrosion resistant steel alloy.

The elevated path in its entirety is over 1000 feet long. As viewed from the surf, most of the path is obscured by plant life. It becomes visible as it emerges at the bluff and curves down towards the beach, and is once again hidden from view as it touches down. The revealed section of the path appears as a minimal curving line in the landscape.

The elevated path and the landscape are intertwined. The bluff and plant life help to shield the path and its supporting structure from different view points. The current parking lot is barren, hot and a blight on the otherwise beautiful natural landscape. The Natural Scheme creates a grove of California Sycamores by planting continuously at the edges of the parking lot. This plant life will regenerate this portion of the site, provide shade for cars and people hanging out in the parking lot, and obscure vehicles from view in all directions. The existing asphalt pavement will be removed and replaced with permeable parking, driving and walkway surface materials. Signage, restrooms and interpretive educational elements are situated in the parking area at the entrance to the new elevated path. This allows the walkway to remain as minimal, uncluttered and natural as possible, while preserving clear, uninterrupted sightlines across the landscape.

Aside from having a minimal impact, the elevated design also has certain positive effects on the landscape. The raised surface protects the wetlands below and allows the areas affected by foot traffic to naturally regenerate. Restoration of previously disturbed areas is also achieved through focused replanting of native wetland and upland species over time. Elevated off of the hillside and not embedded into it, the path allows rainwater to continue to course down the bluff. This minimal design intervention maintains the character and fragility of the natural environment.

Arriving at Trestles, you find a parking spot shaded by trees. The beginning of the new path to the beach is in the same location as the path you used to take. As you walk along and descend towards the beach, you are surrounded by plant life but, because you are slightly elevated, you are already able to see the break at Lower Trestles. Winding your way down and curving around the bluff, you take in the views of Middles and Church and decide where you want to surf. You continue through the thicket, cross over the railroad tracks and descend sharply towards the underbrush at the foot of the dunes. The path ends at a clearing within the brush and connects to the beach by a short ramp.

You’re in the water. The surf is cranking but you still have time to take in the awesome natural landscape of Trestles. Most of the elevated walkway is hidden from your view by plant life. In the distance, the path appears as a minimal curving line that rises from the brush, spans the train tracks and disappears into the landscape at the bluff. The parking lot and facilities at the top of the hill are obscured by plant life and trees. What you see as you wait for the next set - the pristine coastal environment - is unchanged from how it was before.

Because the end of the path is hidden by brush, you have to remember where to find it as you leave the beach. You use the shower at the base of the path to rinse off and then begin your climb back to the top. The walk is just as long as it used to be. It does not matter how much water is in your ears or how wiped out you are, there are no worries about a train coming out of nowhere. You look back to see if your friends are still in the water and continue up the path towards the parking lot. You leave the path, step barefoot onto the shaded pavement and make your way to your car.


New York, New York
United States
Project posted by MBB

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 7093.

Project Details

NAME: Natural Scheme
PROJECT LEAD: Jose Miranda
LOCATION: New York, New York, United States
START DATE: February 22, 2010
CURRENT PHASE: Design development
ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER: Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects

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.


Nike 6.0 defines innovation and embodies the creativity of youth, united by action. Nike 6.0 delivers footwear and apparel to support the new generation of action sports athletes who are changing the worlds of surf, snow, ski, BMX, wake and moto. Their unlimited potential and contagious energy deliver the future through performance and lifestyle.