At Modern Luxury, connection and community define who we are. We use cookies to improve the Modern Luxury experience - to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic. We also may share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. We take your privacy seriously and want you to be aware that we have recently made changes to our Privacy Policy, which can be found here.


The Aquaponic, Symbiotic, Flood-Proof, Car-Free City

Lauren Murrow | August 30, 2013 | Story

Five local architectural and historical institutions are taking a fantastical, permits-schmermits look at urban design this month during the 10th annual Architecture and the City fest. The collaborative exhibit, Unbuilt San Francisco, reveals dozens of renderings and 3-D models of grand city plans both forthcoming and futuristic, from blatant economy boosters (a casino on Alcatraz?) to whimsical ideals (Venice-inspired canals winding through Mission Bay). AIA San Francisco gave us a preview of the exhibit’s 9 designs. Sept. 1–30

Projects That Never Were
1. UN Building: When the United Nations Charter was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial in 1945, the location for the new organization’s headquarters was still undecided. This rendering by architect Vincent G. Raney, among the first to be publicly released, portrays the UN skyscraper flanked by a lighted globe near Twin Peaks.

2. Mission Bay: Pei Cobb Freed & Partners imagines Mission Bay by way of Venice—parks and open spaces are linked by a circuit of canals, forming a residential central island.

3. Bay Bridge Living: Architect David Dana envisions turning the span of the Bay Bridge slated for demolition into a modular park space. His plan calls for a promenade modeled after New York’s High Line, plus staggered platforms for craft and farmers’ markets.

Projects That Will Be
4. Fort Mason: West 8 design firm plans to reshape the 13 acres around Fort Mason Center, building an art-oriented hotel (“Art-El”) and an indoor swimming pool on Pier 1. Large wooden pontoons afloat on the bay will be topped by a viewing deck, a timber hill, and another pool.

5. Transbay Terminal (2017): The revamped transit center by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects will include a 5.4-acre rooftop park, a 1,000-person amphitheater, a café, and a playground. Skylights and patterned holes in the building’s facade will flood the terminal with natural light.

6. SFMOMA (2016): Snøhetta’s plan for the museum features 15,000 square feet of art-filled public space, including a new sculpture terrace that will be bordered by the largest living wall of plants in San Francisco.

Projects That Could Be
7. Cultivating Urban Utopia: Fougeron Architecture envisions an agriculturally self-sufficient San Francisco fed by a series of vertical farms. The farms, dotted throughout the city, would thrive on reclaimed water and renewable energy technologies.

8. Hydramax: Future Cities Lab dreamed up these waterfront Hydramax Port Machines: fuzzy, pierlike robotic structures that contain aquaponic fish farms, hydroponic vegetable gardens, parks, and wildlife refuges. Ferries, which can dock on the Hydramax, will become the main means of transportation.

9. Folding Water: This mechanized levee system by Kuth Ranieri Architects opens and closes like a camera lens to regulate rising sea levels. Unlike a conventional dam, the perforated wall allows water to flow through it, mirroring the natural ecosystem.

Originally published in the September 2013 issue of San Francisco

Have feedback? Email us at
Email Lauren Murrow at
Follow us on Twitter @sanfranmag
Follow Lauren Murrow on Twitter @laurenmurrow


Photography by: