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Safe Trestles "Unveiling the Natural" Phase 2



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

It´s a landscape that provoke those who experience them to become more aware of how their actions affect the environment, and to care enough to make changes. We live in these places and we need to return the ability to look, 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 alter the sequences through Trestles; a lineal path between the Bluff and the wetlands, and changes of textures, colors, 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 separeted“ 1

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

Drescription program.

During phase II of Trestles project we didn’t change our way of thinking about the site, its problems and characteristics that makes it unique. We kept the idea of a main path that will lead users to the beach (main goal) and to discover a new Trestle that they may not notice yet.

As the program requires, we developed two different paths: one main path with an underpass and another one with an at grade pass.


Keeping the same idea of the phase I project, we re-adapted the form of the path to the real topography of the site, using the existing path as a guide. So we propose a path that hardly touches the soil, letting space for vegetation grow underneath and connect both sides of the way. It’s a natural itinerary, made for pedestrian and bikes. A unique wood element that transforms itself when needed. Wood sheets (wooden beams) that moves in different positions, has different angles and heights according to the necessity of the path: protecting wall, bench, information point, scenery element to improve or conduct views that Trestles can offer. The path has it own rhythm followed by the concept of speed; the path design becomes narrow and wide; active-passive. The wood floor pieces change their sequence according to the slope, rest place or view point. For example, when we want the user to go slowly so it can enjoy the view or sit down, the sequence of wood pieces and their width is larger than when we want the user to go faster but never forgetting about the California State Parks Accessibility Guidelines.

The entrance of the path begins at level + 58’ going downs with ramps and landings until it reaches the level 7’ under the train rails and climb again until level 9’ to reach the beach.

Both entrance and exit of the path work as a funnel; the entrance invites de user to discover a new place, giving the sensation of mystery, of something unknown. The exit, instead, works as an opposite funnel, opening the view to the beach, the ocean and waves. 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 +58´, the information point is situated at the beginning of the path, integrated into the wood
sheet that forms the entrance funnel and at the end of the path at level +9´ the composting toilets, showers, drinking fountains, parking area for bikes and surf board are hided behind the wood sheet that composes the final funnel.

The underpass has a trapezoid shape, so it doesn’t give the sensation of a real tunnel, allowing natural light to come in. The structural concrete walls are covered by wood on the same rhythm that the floor (fast).


This other option of crossing the train rails has the same concept that the underpass path. It is adapted to de site
topographical conditions, the path barely touch the soil, it tries to keep the same trajectory that that existent path allowing vegetation to re-take the place that one they belonged to it.
The only difference between the tow proposals is that from level +58’ (parking lot) the path goes down until it reaches level +13’ (train rail level) end after crossing it keeps its way down until level +6’ to the beach.
The crossing area also has a trapezoid shape, respecting the Railroad Grade Crossing Traffic Control Devices. The
protections needed for this grade crossing are covered by wood, always respecting the speed sequence of the crossing:
fast. The wood walls inhibit users of getting of the main path once they feel tempted of making the way to the beach
shorter. This proposal keeps the information point at the entrance, the composting toilets by the end of the path with the other services an the main viewpoint at level +45’.


These memory wood stick are a tool to show users of Trestles what was happening to wetlands as a consequence of unofficial trails that were traced in this area. The wooden pieces are placed along the trail of the unofficial paths in the vertical sense, showing all the different trails made by human among wetlands. These wooden pieces also resemble the remnants of a trestle construction. They are the components of such a construction not combined but placed one next to the other. The concept of deconstruction is introduced to symbolize the extinction of the unofficial paths. The wooden pieces mark only the paths that are perpendicular to the beach line. Thus they underline the direction of the main path. No new vegetation is going to be planted along the unofficial paths. That gesture would mark a new line on the landscape. The recuperation of the vegetation will accomplishe and gradually cover the wooden pieces. The “relics” of the human presence are taken over by nature. The wooden pieces are between 1.65 - 1.80m high. This provides a sense of the human scale in this vast landscape and allows the intervention to integrate itself into the landscape.


"Return of an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance."

Because of the new structure placed on site, we will have earth movements and disturbance of vegetation. We propose to restore the borders of the path with native vegetation and pioneer vegetation, acting also as earth stabilizers.
The Black sage and Coastal sage scrub along the path will be the ones that match.

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 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 maintaining the ecological process, 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.


In a way of avoiding more contamination at the wetland area, this project proposes the composting toilets system for covering the need of having toilets at the beach. We propose a building built with re-used trestles wood, on top of a metallic structure. All the building has thermal isolation as it uses a sandwich system of wood – isolation – wood. The building is divided in two restrooms (women + handicap / men + handicap). Each restroom has 4 toilets with the composting system called BioLet. Our environment is easy to spoil and difficult to restore and one of the most persistent environment problem is human sewer. BioLet uses no water, no chemicals and produces no affluence to drain, so there is no pollution of ground or underground water. It is a self-contained composting toilet, that doesn’t need to be connect to a septic or sewer system so it can be installed anywhere and produces a very dry humus that can be used to gardening as fertilizer. The installation is simple (see image) and the maintenance is very low.

The electricity needed for Biolet to become operational will come from the train rail.
For this project we propose de Biolet 60 XL that is fully automatic, has advanced active liquid control and can hold 4 people full time use or 6 people part time use. For sinks and showers water will come from the same origin as the water that serves the Life Guard house and will be connect to the restroom by tubs that will be fixed under the
path. As showers should be used only for rinsing salt and sand (no soap should be used in these showers) and for the sinks we propose a bio-degradable soap, used water can be released in nature without any bad consequences.

Restoration Guidelines:

We should follow methods and conditions required to successfully establish native vegetation in the area. We will need restoration goals, key personnel, site preparation, seeding, planting strategies, maintenance in some cases and allow natural succession in others.

Important points to be follow:
• Establish vegetation that is native from the area.
• Remove non-native species / weed control strategies.
• Preserve genotypes by collecting seeds from other local habitats with similar conditions.
• Increase wildlife by protecting and restoring the existent and by providing natural elements for living.
• Site preparation: before plants or propagules are installed at a site, some reworking of the soil surface may be required to create a planting surface appropriate for revegetation.The need for the following tasks will be based on individual site considerations.
• Provide public access compatible to the restored areas.

Wetlands restoration:

Restoring wetlands that have been disturbed with the unofficial paths.
Wetlands provide food, protection from predators, and other vital habitat factors for many of the nation's fish and wildlife species, including endangered and threatened species. In addition, wetland eco-types have economic value associated with recreational, commercial, and subsistence use of fish and wildlife resources and they remove pollutants from overland flows before they reach our lakes, rivers and bays.
Wetlands intercept storm runoff and release flood waters gradually to downstream systems. When wetlands are converted to systems without water retention capacity, downstream flooding problems increase.
Wetlands are important to be conserved for the Support for birds and other wildlife. Wetlands are probably best known for their value to waterfowl. In addition to birds, other wildlife makes its home in wetlands. Reptiles and amphibians are common wetland residents. Nearly all of the approximately 190 species of amphibians in North America depend on wetlands for breeding. Other wildlife associated with wetlands includes muskrat, beaver, mink, raccoon, marsh and swamp rabbits, numerous mice, voles, shrews, lemmings, and other small mammals. Large mammals also rely on wetlands. For example, moose often depend on wetlands such as white cedar swamps and other forested wetlands for
winter shelter and food.

Dune restoration:

Establishment of pioneers vegetation.
Perennial grasses are the primary stabilizers of frontal dune systems
Grasses stabilizers: Saltgrass, Bitter panicum, Seashore paspalum, Seaoats.

Provide Fauna Elements for living:

The use of natural elements that provide habitat to the wildlife can increase the natural richness of the place.
1. Insect hotel. Provides a cavity nesting, for bees and birds with nesting opportunities.
2. Post. Selected birds will use this post as perches when they are looking for insects.
3. Tree branches. Provides narrow spaces for small invertebrates seeking shelter.
4. Small branches host habitat for small fauna
5. Rock piles mimicking natural formations provide also habitat for small mammals and reptiles.
6. Downed logs create moist and cool micro-habitats important for many amphibians, reptiles and plants.
The use of natural elements that provide habitat to the wildlife can increase the natural richness of the place.


San Onofre, California
United States


Competition Details

  • Name: Safe Trestles Phase Two
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Private
  • Registration Deadline:
  • Submission Deadline:
  • Entry Fee: Free
  • Status: Phase 2 Design Review

The competition entry ID for this project is 7401.

Project Details

NAME: Safe Trestles "Unveiling the Natural" Phase 2
PROJECT LEAD: Jessica Gamboa MLA
LOCATION: San Onofre, California, United States
START DATE: May 25, 2010
CURRENT PHASE: Design development
PROJECT TYPE: Landscapes/Parks/Outdoor Spaces
, Maria Paula Seixas. MLA, MPM, Eleni Tsirintani. MLA
ARCHITECT: Ralph koppenhöfer Architect Dipl. Ingeneur
SITE: Hugh G. Lester. Architect


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