The Beacon


San Francisco Botanical Garden Gondwana Circle International Competition
Collaboration work with Heejoo Shi, San Francisco, 2009.

Geological information is commonly portrayed or depicted on the outer spherical surface that represents the Earth either as 2D or 3D. We want to rethink this perception and representation as a method of actively engaging the public. We explore new forms and processes that would allow the public to lively engage and experience the geological narrative of Gondwana and its botanical implication. We start to explore these possibilities by “reversing.” By bringing the geological representation of the outer surface inside the reversal effect takes place. This transforms the representational surface from convex to concave. The form of the “beacon” fundamentally derives from this reversal process and is inspired by the surrounding trees and its canopies around the Gondwana Circle and will blend into the surrounding trees.

The beacon allows the Gondwana Circle to be clearly identified in the Botanical Garden of San Francisco. It creates a visual attraction and provides shelter that also becomes a space of gathering and becomes literally the beacon of the Botanical garden physically and programmatically. The whole installation consists of five beacons. The main beacon is the largest. This beacon is the primary installation where the concept of the plate tectonics,corresponding concepts of plant migration and distribution and speciation are displayed. Visitors dynamically interact with the display and information through visual and audio materials within the beacon and with the seats and the surrounding ground surface. It also acts as an initial visual attractor and central reference point for the Gondwana Circle to the visitors entering through the Friend Gate at the main northern entrance.

The other three smaller beacons are strategically located within the Circle and refer to the three surrounding gardens that are related to the Gondwana plates through the existing pathways. They are related to the Australia Garden, New Zealand Garden and Chile & South America Garden respectively. The horticultural inspirations are abstractly translated into colors related to the each region and gardens. Australian Garden beacon is particularly inspired by the brilliant golden banksia. Golden yellow is the theme and ordering color. New Zealand Garden beacon is inspired by the intense Pohutukawa red, the tree referred as New Zealand Christmas tree. Chile and South America Garden beacon is inspired by the Chilean bellflower and one of its brilliant pink colors.

Lastly, the smallest “light beacon” of the five will primarily act as street lighting and will complete the cluster of beacons into a centerpiece for the Gondwana Circle. All of the beacons are within the Gondwana Circle and makes reference to the surrounding gardens and peoples foot traffic and circulation. By providing a space of gathering, interactive education, shelter and point of reference the “Beacon” celebrates the Gondwana Circle’s experience within the larger context of the San Francisco’s Botanical Garden and becomes its beacon.