Marin by the Sea

Sea level is not a fixed point. Imagine, that you were asked to define a typical day. Most people would respond with the two extremes, sunrise and sunset. But what if you lived by the sea?


Sea level behaves like a typical day, it has a range. There are low tides and high tides, which are even lower and higher during a full moon. In reality the sea does not stay put. It has interrelated rhythms and cycles and is constantly in flux. It is at this level of understanding of systems that we are ready to design truly resilient landscapes.


At APDW we are purposefully aware of natures’ cycles as it serves as an undercurrent to all our work. A prime example of this is at Marin Gateway Center. The project demanded we think of the sea and the characteristics of coastal ecologies to explore how they might impact the design of a retail shopping experience. How do we work with the inherent fluctuations of a natural system? How do we design for resiliency?


Marin Gateway Center is an existing retail plaza located in Marin City, California, adjacent to Richardson Bay, a pristine estuary arm of the larger San Francisco Bay. This estuary was named after famed English sailor William Richardson who lived in Sausalito and brought maritime industry to the area in the early 1800s. The estuary is home to intertidal habitats that are undisturbed despite its urbanized edge and is designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA), by the National Audubon Society.


The local maritime history and rich ecological habitat helped to define a plant palette that was inspired by the nearby coastal marshes and yet tough enough to perform in an urban landscape. This site-specific plant palette can tolerate a high-water table, address the local micro-climate, and is drought tolerant. APDW incorporated nautical elements throughout the site and splashed bold maritime graphics on building facades, awnings & leasable stores to pay homage to the area’s history and establish a maritime material vocabulary into the outdoor spaces. The crosswalks are stenciled with schools of fish to add a touch of whimsy and to remind visitors of the adjacent estuary that informed our design.


The result is a retail plaza that feels “at home” astride both the cultural and ecological fabric of Marin City. Marin Gateway Shopping Center is complete and open for business. If you are in the area, please swing by and enjoy a new shopping experience.