Student-led biodesign architecture project adds habitats to SF's Presidio

BySpencer Christian and Tim Didion via KGO logo
Saturday, July 30, 2022
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A biodesign architecture project by students from California College of the Arts adds habitats to San Francisco's Presidio.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It started simply as a classroom concept. But now, the innovative student-led bio-design architecture project is taking shape in San Francisco's Presidio.

The materials the students used are meant to last for a limited time, then degrade back into the environment.

Architecture student Geada Alagha has been working in a secluded corner of San Francisco's Presidio, an area you might describe as the intersection of nature and design.

"Yeah, so these are small habitats that we've created through modules. Like you see up here, there's kind of a small compartment where birds can come and nest," said Alagha, pointing to the structures.

The triangular-shaped towers were created with local willow and acacia and were originally conceived as part of a design competition. ABC7 News first got a look at the concepts earlier this year, during a visit to the California College of the Arts. That's where students were tasked with turning locally sourced materials into structures that would help support specific habitats.

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Professor Margaret Ikeda says the Presidio installation is a chance to scale up the theoretical.

"The structures were done digitally first. So that's the beauty of using tools to be able to visualize. Create a landscape and put these tripods in space," Ikeda said.

Alagha and fellow students spend multiple weekends assembling the installation, carefully joining the parts using knots and techniques inspired by native peoples.

Other concepts include habitats designed to enhance a variety of environments -- everything from areas around levees to open space -- but they say a common thread is thinking about how to involve local communities.

"Can you imagine how much greater the impact would be if we had a community action, thinking about how to bring back those habitats?" Alagha said.

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"It's a really interesting novel idea of how can you improve our infrastructure for plants and animals in an urban environment," adds Presidio Trust wildlife ecologist Jonathan Young.

Young says that birds have already begun perching on the towers, perhaps an early sign of approval for a student design that's made it from the drawing board to the dunes of the Presidio.

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