Regenerative Intersections: WATERWORKS in the Tenderloin

WATERWORKS is a proposal to re-envision the streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, and in particular its intersections, as a cyclical water-based neighborhood micro-infrastructure with nodes of social interaction and employment.

The Tenderloin thrives via streets. This is where neighbors, friends, business associates and strangers coalesce. The streets are the Tenderloin’s lifelines and each intersection establishes unique opportunities for specific local interactions. Based upon an analysis of context, we posit that pin-point interventions can provide rejuvenation and community sustenance, promoting service and opportunity to the neighborhood inhabitants and visitors alike. Vital insertions (at intersection) from which a network of community services can flourish for generative work, social provision, and neighborhood renewal.

WATERWORKS promotes an essential micro-infrastructure, determined by specific conditions of block-by-block functional need. We believe the Tenderloin’s rebirth takes shape one intersection at a time. Each block in the Tenderloin is unique with activity and a kind of embedded public story from which to respond. Stores, restaurants, galleries, social service centers, bars, food banks, residential units, and hotels are a few of the many places. WATERWORKS establishes complimentary resource to these programs, while simultaneously providing public outlet of interactive opportunity for the neighborhoods diverse populations. WATERWORKS expects to establish a new collaborative system where the residents participate to maintain local identity and provisional benefit.

We envision alluvial junctions taking shape in a variety of forms throughout the neighborhood. One example manifests in roof top water collections. Roof tops can be connected with vertical filtrations systems which feed into public cleansing parks. As active community gathering points, they become social reservoirs for public interaction. We imagine depots where neighbors gather and cultural identity is restored. The cleansing park is a curiosity for onlookers and users finding retreat in the bustle of the city. On hot days they cool the neighborhood, reducing heat islands of expansive surfaces of asphalt and concrete. Water, as the most basic of needs, can be spectacle for health and cleanliness. Further, these basic needs can be met with an extensive, even more vibrant urban network of civic work and public leisure.

We imagine WATERWORKS weaving through the Tenderloin as a kind of metaphorical tributary. For example, other junctions may provide for water distribution (water fountains) and clothes laundering needs to homeless populations. Water gardens will sustain agricultural parcels for local food production. Water treatment can happen in compact locations, relying less on the large regional systems common to major urban areas.

Clearly, California is in the midst of a major water crisis. Years of scarce rainfall have threatened water resources despite conservation efforts. San Francisco, like most modern cities, relies on a far-removed system of water collection, purification, distribution, and treatment. Tenderloin WATERWORKS can circumvent San Francisco’s regional system by integrating an infrastructure of local water collection (and use). This system can provide a range of resource, while recognizing that conservation and awareness of water use is now widely expected in California. Ultimately however, is the demonstration that WATERWORKS (and water especially) is central in the regeneration of public and neighborhood identity.