The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

CLUI Dives Into San Francisco Bay


1074Back to the Bay exhibit panels fill the upstairs halls and galleries of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco. CLUI photo
DEVELOPMENT ALONG THE SAN FRANCISCO Bay represents a remarkable landscape of terrestrial engineering that evokes the history and economy of the society that has formed on its shores. As a back space, this landscape contains many of the land uses that the city pushes to its edges, such as water treatment facilities, landfills, shooting ranges, power plants and airports. However, this realm is also a shore front, housing the maritime industries that continue to be a major element of the economy of the region, with port facilities for oil refineries, ship repair, containerized cargo, and military logistics. Beyond these broad categories of land uses lie many surprises and curiosities, from the charred remains of the last whaling station to close down in the United States, to anachronistic communities like Alviso (once the port for San Jose), Drawbridge, and Port Costa.

Back to the Bay: An Exploration of the Margins of the San Francisco Bay Region is a CLUI exhibit that was displayed at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, completing a year-long examination of this region by the CLUI. The exhibit focused on the land uses along the fringes of the bay itself, the entity that both unites and divides the community of the Bay Area.

In the exhibit, 50 six square-foot panels with aerial photographs were created by the CLUI, describing 50 views along the shoreline through additional images and text. The panels were arranged throughout the halls and walls of the Yerba Buena Center following a 400 mile geographic loop around the bay, from San Francisco, to San Jose, to Oakland, Richmond, Crockett, Pittsburg, and back.

1075"Then” and “Now” maps produced by Stillhere show the human-induced changes to the Bay’s structure (left).
 A walkable satellite image of the Bay Area was installed in the lobby, so that people could stroll all over the place (right). Yerba Buena photo/CLUI photo
The CLUI invited two other organizations to participate in the Back to the Bay exhibit. One of these was the Prelinger Archive, which provided film clips of the Bay and its shores, drawn from the thousands of industrial, commercial, and ephemeral films collected in the New York-based archive. The selected films, shown at Yerba Buena as a looped DVD projection, dated from the early 1900's through the 1970's, and showed the Bay environment as it is built and used by its inhabitants, a landscape of movement and change. 

The art/science team Stillhere was also invited to present material in the exhibit, and constructed maps and other images that show the physical changes to the Bay over time. Stillhere, a research team that includes Robin Grossinger and Elise Brewster, specializes in unearthing the physical and ecologic form of the historic Bay that lies latent in the urbanized and transformed landscape of the region. Their images explore the interplay between human and natural forces in the creation of the contemporary shoreline, and include the Bay Change maps they helped create for the San Francisco Estuary Institute, that show the evolution of the Bay since 1800.