Pinniped Prospect—

Marine Mammal Care Center

2018—Competition, 2nd Place
Hosted by Calvin Fellowship

As Untitled Studio

Situated in a view-blocked field between the Arcata airport, Highway 101 and over 4 miles way from direct beach access, the new site for a Northcoast Marine Mammal Center does not immediately present itself as an ideal home for recovering Pinnipeds. Recently rescued from the coast these animals are malnourished, sometimes wounded and often highly stressed; the eventual goal being to get them back to water as directly as possible.

To provide a home for the visiting Pinniped, this proposal quietly places the new NMMC underneath the field of the site, away from the activity of the airport and highway while secretly connecting out to the coastline. This underground place, built of site-local rammed earth walls and a hydrological ‘living system’ above, references the archetypal qualities of the coastal cave, recreating conditions most familiar to a visiting Pinniped.

Descending from the field above, Human visitors to the NMMC join the Pinnipeds in their cave, a room of falling light and reflective pools, with prospect towards the horizon beyond. Subtle placement of steps and low walls allow the human eye to initially perceive the there are no barriers between them and their new Pinniped friends. Shallower pools are placed nearby for  young humans (and the young are heart) to play in water too, only feet from where their marine counterparts lay watching.

And when the time comes, all may move towards the ocean again. Rehabilitated Pinnipeds, staff and human visitors may leave the cave towards the west. Bikers along Hammond Trail may stop for the event, as the healthy Pinnipeds are brought down to the water’s edge.

While these visitors will come and go, the NMMC will remain. It’s rainwater living-system will re-cycle onwards regardless of drought. With its new location, it will continue to quietly rehabilitate. Having connected to the Hammond Trail and the coast line, it may become more integrated into the days and weekends of community members.