Unless you live in the Bayview district, the India Basin shoreline likely is terra incognita — beyond the horizon, a line on the map near now-gone Candlestick Park.
Guess what: It’s also part of San Francisco’s next frontier, an area where long-empty voids are being filled, and some of the region’s best designers are wrapping up an ambitious ideas competition.
The competition involves five teams that have conjured up visions for 7.5 acres in the middle of what someday could be a 1.5-mile-long stretch of public shoreline. The teams will make their presentations in two forums on Tuesday, with a selection likely to follow within days.
All this is moving fast, to little fanfare outside the neighborhood. And with luck, say the organizers, the momentum will help spark a larger rejuvenation of the once-industrial waterfront extending north from the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard.
“It feels a little bit like our Crissy Field moment,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the city’s Recreation and Park Department. “Obviously, there are some lofty ambitions at work. But the southern half of the city is evolving,”
That’s true in ways both obvious and not.
The competition combines the remnants of a boat-repair complex at 900 Innes St. and the India Basin Shoreline Park next door. The former was purchased by the city in 2014; the latter is a pleasant though nondescript neighborhood park with concrete picnic tables, asphalt paths and two small playgrounds.
A half mile to the south, a sign proclaiming “Welcome, Visionaries” marks the entrance to where developer Lennar is building new homes at the old shipyard. The first units opened in April, and 371 condominiums and apartments now are either inhabited or under construction. The Hunters View housing project uphill from the park is being rebuilt as a mixed-income community. And the empty land between 900 Innes and the shipyard is where developer Build Inc. envisions as many as 1,200 homes alongside ample recreational space.
The competition is sponsored by Build Inc. and the San Francisco Parks Alliance. It’s managed by Rec and Park and the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit that has worked to revive other city parks.
“A Design Competition for two properties along the India Basin Shoreline, 900 Innes and India Basin Shoreline Park, is being led by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and The Trust for Public Land, sponsored by Build Inc., and in partnership with San Francisco Parks Alliance.”
“We’re seeking great ideas and inspiration. We also want to energize the neighborhood and bring attention to this amazing area,” said Alejandra Chiesa, the trust’s program director for the Bay Area.
Competitions of this sort are tricky: Ginsburg referred to ever-popular Crissy Field’s rebirth, but the neighborhoods around India Basin don’t have the financial resources of the residents near the Presidio who have helped fund the open space upgrades at the Army post turned national park.
Still, the quintet of contenders is impressive.
One team is led by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, a Seattle firm that received the 2011 National Design Award from the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, while another finalist is the San Francisco office of the international design giant AECOM. Two teams pair San Francisco architects and landscape architects — Stanley Saitowitz with the firm SWA in one case, Aidlin Darling Design with Surface Design in the other — while the final team is led by Berkeley landscape architect Tom Leader.
Some designs extend city streets to the shoreline. Others are expressive manipulations of the terrain. All offer a variety of community spaces, with shoreline elements flexible enough to adjust to sea level rise.
For more information, go to www.ibwaterfrontparks.com
But don’t take my word for it: The five alternate futures are on display Thursday through Saturday in the EcoCenter at Heron’s Head Park, just north of the India Basin park. On Tuesday the teams will make two presentations — one in the neighborhood, the other a lunchtime session at the SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission St. The seven-member competition jury, which includes three neighborhood residents along with design professionals, will take things from there.
If the focus on India Basin involves a hint of crystal ball, this month’s national honor for the Monterey Bay Aquarium is more of a fond look back.
The ever-popular scientific attraction on Monterey’s Cannery Row has received the Twenty-Five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects, adding the complex designed by San Francisco’s EHDD to a rarefied circle that includes New York City’s Rockefeller Center and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The jury praised the aquarium as “a brilliant, gritty adaptive reuse” that remains “at the forefront of interactive museum space.” Beyond that, the award emphasized sustainability aspects of the complex that are as relevant now as when it opened in 1984 — including the use of unfiltered seawater that flows into display tanks, allowing fish to partake of natural nutrients.
All that and — as families know — it’s fun on repeated visits. Congrats to EHDD and the institution itself.
Place is a weekly column by John King, The San Francisco Chronicle’s urban design critic. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @johnkingsfchron