Award Winner - May 2009
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A Natural Fit

Shoreline Parks
San Mateo, Calif.

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Endres Ware Architects Engineers in Berkeley, Calif.

Size: 177 acres shoreline area;
60 acres developed in this phase

Project Cost: $5.2 million

Quick Tour:

  • Two miles of trails & pathways
  • Picnic areas & shelters
  • Restrooms
  • Pedestrian suspension bridge
  • The Shellmound Gurgle: a tidally activated water feature
  • Water-themed playgrounds
  • Vertical and horizontal Gateway Art Wave walls by Otto Rigan
  • Outdoor classrooms
  • Interpretive stations
  • Windsurfing/kayak access area
  • Dog park
  • Vista points
  • Seasonal wetland marsh enhancements
  • Extensive revegetation


long a 2 1/2-mile stretch of the San Francisco bay coastline, bordered by homes and echoing with the sound of aircraft approaching and taking off from the nearby international airport, a master plan and design that melded the vision of various architects, engineers, landscape architects, artists, city planners and others has taken a former little-used local park and a landfill site and turned them into a beautiful development that incorporates natural elements and the utilitarian features of the landscape.

The site was typical of wetlands treated as wastelands during the mid-20th century. The site served mainly as a regional landfill and utility corridor. Reclaiming the space and reconnecting it with the City of San Mateo involved a vision that incorporated three goals: to create an artistic signature for the city, to link fun with stewardship of natural resources, and to provide opportunities for outdoor adventure and experiential learning. The resulting parks are designed to celebrate the bay, its tidally influenced margins, open waters, flows of the San Mateo Creek and wildlife in the adjacent salt marshes. While the airplanes, windy expanses and power lines that dominate the site could have been viewed as a negative, the design team took them as an inspiration, creating a park and architecture that both puts the community in touch with the natural landscape, while also echoing the dynamic and utilitarian forms present on the site.

"Inspiring and inflecting our designs were: the sinuous topography that has recorded the interplay of land and water over countless years; the delicate lightness of the native gum plants and chord grasses and the abundant avian life; the spindly latticework of the utility towers anchored by massive concrete bases, and the patterns made by crisscrossing power lines overhead."

The resulting $5.2 million landscape architectural program includes a pedestrian bridge, gatehouse, public restrooms, picnic shelters, outdoor classroom and an office and maintenance facility. A footbridge, designed to have minimal physical and visual impact, connects newly restored wetlands to the adjacent residential neighborhood.

The new features echo the site's existing elements. The bridge's gentle arcs reflect utility wires above. Picnic shelters balance on conical concrete bases that loosely reference the utility tower bases nearby. Even the restroom structures express dynamic airiness with scissor roofs angling upward and lifted off their concrete walls, allowing the sky to fill the interior space.

Additional features draw visitors and connect them with the natural elements of the site. Linear Sculpture Walls portray rolling abstract waves with inlaid blue and green reflective glass. The Shellmound Gurgle, a fountain activated by the rising tide, reminds visitors of the site's past as home to one of the densest collections of Native American shell mounds found along the Bay. Visitors are further enmeshed in the site by a series of interpretive stations that provide information about bay ecosystems, sustainability and cultural history.

The well-integrated design was enough to capture the eye of John King, San Francisco Chronicle's urban design writer, who noted on Feb. 2, 2006, "What happened here should be studied by every other Bay Area community or regional authority that tackles large open-space projects."


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

RecreARTion: The blending of recreation opportunities and inspired artful forms make this a great gathering place for play and interaction with nature. …
Exciting space that adds strong sculptural elements to the play experience. Great use of materials that reflect the spirit of land and water, and how we relate to and recreate in it!

David Burch

Enchanting description of a very thoughtful and deliberate approach that resulted in a most unique and appropriate design solution. It was well executed, with the right materials and mix of elements. It altogether creates a park that should be enjoyed, and cherished, for years.

Bob McDonald

The forms are industrial and organic, melding with the adjacent environment of shoreline and power lines—very clean concept.

Michael Pratl

The inclusion of a floating bridge over the creek is one of the many well-executed features of the site.

Colleen McKenna

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Landscape Architects:

2M Associates (prime) in conjunction with Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey

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