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The Emeryville Marina
Nature And Humanity Center

Emeryville, California, USA

Dr. Eugene Tsui, architect November 11, 2006

The city of Emeryville has experienced an impressive evolution of development physically and culturally. In the past 15 years it has established itself as a regional center of economic strength. California often leads the nation in innovation, technology, social reform and cultural enrichment. Emeryville can be a leader among California cities. It is the time to strengthen Emeryville as a cultural and ecological model regionally, nationally and internationally.

The Emeryville Marina Nature and Humanity Center is a project that developed from talks with city administration as a proposal to create a built environment that addresses the issues of public education, recreation, ecology and architectural precedent and is a way to attract people to the Marina Park area. The building is designed to be a strikingly unique model of what happens when you combine ecology, technology, education, recreation, art and community involvement into one building.  


The building is situated at the northern most point of the Emeryville Marina Park on a mound of soil that is rarely used by visitors. Structurally, it is constructed of lime-based concrete that emits oxygen instead of carbon dioxide. It is insulated with recycled paper pulp and water-based glue. It has an internal water-cleaning system using native bacteria-eating water plants contained in a wetlands system within the building. Visitors can see and touch the system to experience how nature can act as a miraculous cleaning device. The dirty water from the Bay is drawn into the west side of the building, circulates in wetlands inside the building and then is pumped out as clean water to the east side marine area. In essence, the Nature and Humanity Center acts as a water cleaning “machine.”

To minimize the use of fossil fuels there will be only a minimum of car parking spaces available at the Center as required by building code. Tours are arranged by charter bus transportation. Primary arrival transportation is by Emery-Go-Round, bicycle and walking.


The Nature and Humanity Center building features a continuous roof of hexagonal-shaped photovoltaic solar panels placed at varying angles to the east, south and westerly sun. It also features two cylindrical truss structures that contain windmills for electrical power generation. The combined power generation of the photovoltaic panels and the windmills is enough to provide renewable electrical power to the building itself, the entire marina, the marina buildings, the park, the fire station, the police station and local businesses in the area.

A meandering, looping series of steel pipe sheathed in copper patina surrounds the building with an artistic sense of humor and playfulness. However, this green-colored piping is a passive solar water collector that supplies hot water to the building and its interior environments. Underground pipes, extending from the main green pipes, are placed at the west side of the building to warm the grassy areas in the spring and fall months and provide an envelope of warmth during open stage presentations.

Primarily constructed of reinforced concrete, the building is fireproof and features roof panels that open for smoke evacuation, and an exterior and interior water immersion system that engulfs the building’s walls in water, making it virtually fireproof and minimizing harm to the interior contents.


The Nature and Humanity Center has a community education program involving an ongoing lecture series featuring prominent speakers whose work utilizes nature-based principles: scientists, artists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, architects, designers, musicians, authors and many others. The Center has classes, which will be a part of the Emery School curriculum, for teaching nature’s processes, design, materials, habitats and environmental issues. Seasonally changing exhibits explain the natural wonders of the region and the possibilities of applying nature’s principles to human endeavors. Guided tours will take persons through the workings of the building as well as the laboratory, classrooms, exhibits and lecture areas.

The construction of the building will involve students and interested members of the community. What better way to learn about ecological design than to be directly engaged in its use. An inflatable membrane procedure will be employed to create the form of the building. This will be the first use of this process in the Bay Area. Many new kinds of construction methods will be applied.


In the spring, summer and fall months, the west side of the building can be opened for outdoor lectures, music gatherings and educational activities.


The Center contains spaces for classrooms, a research and development laboratory, exhibition space, a lecture hall with 140 seats, two offices, lavatories, interior constructed wetlands, souvenir shop, storage, mechanical room for viewing ecological technologies in action, foyer with information desk and lobby/entrance area. There are viewing areas for the windmills, constructed wetlands and passive solar pipes from within the building.


Staff consists of:

Director, secretary, 4 researchers/teachers, 2 education instructors, 2 tour guides, information receptionist, store attendant, custodian/mechanical maintenance monitor/AV person.


Telos Foundation: Non-profit foundation (501 C3) public education foundation.

General building concept and purpose has been preliminarily approved by BCDC, April 2006.


The Nature and Humanity Center is designed to be a symbol of architectural innovation, ecological sustainability, the sense of community between nature and humanity and human beings with one another. It is a vision of Emeryville’s future as a model for social, artistic and educational development in a way that promotes stewardship and learning from nature in a mutually beneficial and creative relationship. The Emeryville Marina Nature and Humanity Center is unlike anything that exists in the world today.


Height of building: 32 feet
Height of passive solar piping: 70 feet
Height of Windmills: 104 feet

Building width: 120 feet
Building length: 108 feet

Building square footage: approximately 8000 square feet

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