Mona Ghandi

Mona Ghandi

San Francisco, CA, US


Fortresses, Bridges, Islands

Students: Mona Ghandi and Sofia Avramopoulou
Tutor: Nicholas de Monchaux
University: University of California, Berkeley, Department of Architecture
Location: San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA


Allen Berger “Adaptively reusing the waste landscape figures to be one of the twenty-first century’s great infrastructural design challenges.” These waste places have risen from deindustrialization as well as industrial growth, the latter having replaced old technologies with new ones... leading to “creative destruction”, or the abolishment of the obsolete.


Studio One 2011-2012 focused largely to the ecology and the history of the Bay Area, understanding its landscape not as an assemblage of natural and manmade elements but as a continuum, as a system that reveals cultural and technological synergies, and seeking to question whether the Bay can also be a vessel of a new kind of relationship between cities and ecologies. Using techniques and software developed by Nicholas de Monchaux for the Local Code project (, “Fortresses Bridges Islands” is a data driven design process and a parametric study of a series of brown fields, abandoned or marginal sites around the Bay moving constantly from local to global scale.
This project introduces a network of a system that spreads around and is superimposed to the larger existing system of the Bay Area. It's a system that consists of multiple elements as vital urban space, commercial services, recreational facilities, light industrial and working spaces, and a transportation network.
This system is anchored on the no-man's-land that lies between suburban gated communities and industrial facilities in proximity to the wetlands and the Bay.

Fortresses, Bridges, Islands.

Ever since colonization San Francisco Bay Area has been conceived  as an ensemble of islands, bridges, missions, fortresses and other military and defensive facilities, and a constantly changing waterfront. But what defined its current state were largely the combined effects of the bay fill in the 20th,  the de-industrialization of the brown-fields in the early 21st  century and the random suburbanization that produced the segregated residential islands identified in the previous phase.The contemporary image of the edge of the Bay looks like a collage of suburban housing, industrial facilities, wetlands, and left-over land, poorly connected to their own context –making their coexistence look almost coincidental. There are no commercial or recreational facilities within walking distance and those segregated residential islands are walled, having a singular point of access, strictly internal circulation and no relationship with the local ecology. Surrounded by a series of elements that function as borders impeding the access to them (highways, railroads, industrial facilities) and  the characteristic horizontality of these areas that forbids visual connections, they eventually constitute suburban islands around the Bay.

The proposal deals with two scales.
In the larger scale of the Bay, the detachment of the filled land from the mainland is proposed, leading to the creation of a network of islands attached to the mainland that are connected with a transportation network of ferries that runs along the whole Bay and is connected with existing transportation networks as freeways, highways, BART and bus stations.

In the closer scale of each island the creation of a “fortress” that carries vital functions for the regeneration of the residential area is proposed, one that eliminates the border by amplifying it. -- providing a new landmark for those areas and introducing moments of verticality necessary for the understanding of the reach and complex system of the Bay Area. They bridge land with water, enhancing the east-west connections that are weak in comparison to the north-south, and they facilitate the terminals for the ferry transportation network.

Apart from the typology of the fortress, we used the bird-bone structure as a formal metaphor:
The final form is characterized by the contrast of the rigid external shell and the dynamic interior spaces that result from the coexistence of different spacial elements (paths, landscape, programmatic elements), and the internal organization of each site is informed by data as density and population size, that differentiate one from another according to local conditions.

Even though this proposal conveys a strong infrastructural value, those fortresses do not constitute infrastructural mega-structures that are imposed to the landscape, but with the use of local earthy materials and the formation of the ground around them they seem as if they emerge form the landscape. The use of these materials not only binds them with the landscape but also assign a unique local identity to each one as the soil quality varies around the Bay.

The final product lingers between urban regeneration strategy and an architecture that merges qualities of land art and infrastructural networks, that integrates with the landscape not by resembling it but by but by “reinventing” it using its own data

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Status: School Project
Location: Bay area,CA
My Role: Designer
Additional Credits: This project is exhibited in Venice Biennale 2012