Leaving a Mark in the Landscape 


Architecture, whether as a town or a building, is the reconciliation of ourselves with the natural land. At the necessary juncture of culture and place, architecture seeks not only the minimal ruin of landscape but something more difficult: a replacement of what was lost with something that atones for the loss. In the best architecture this replacement is through an intensification of the place, where it emerges no worse for human intervention, where culture’s shaping of the land to the specific use results in a heightening of the beauty and presence. In these places we seem worthy of existence.”

-W.G. Clark 


It has been proposed that parks and aquariums release their killer whales to sea pens, or netted off coves, to either be rehabilitated and released back to the wild or where they can at least live out the rest of their lives in real ocean water.

This is a proposal for an architectural intervention, creating a place where people can come to observe the animals in a manner that brings awareness to their situation. It is about designing for the human experience when humans are not the primary users; the whales are.

The structure is out of scale with its environment. The program is about how man took these animals out of their habitat and now man is trying to put them back. Nothing about the program is natural and it should not be disguised as such. Humans have had a hand in every aspect of this and that should be known.

Eventually, all of the whales will either be released or die off, and this structure will no longer have a program. It will become a ruin or scar in the landscape,to remind people of what once was, of what humans did: in both a negative and positive light. 


The program is located on Orcas Islands, WA, part of the San Juan Islands, located in the Salish Sea. This speci c inlet is located in the northeast of Eastsound. The waters are calm and the grounds are rocky with exposed bedrock. To get to this island, one must take a sea plane or ferry, and from there, the visitor is taken to and from the site by boat. 


Longitudinal Section

Longitudinal Elevation


Entrance Elevation

Entrance Section & Plan

The visitor disembarks from a boat, the drop-off site being designated by a light beacon. The guest descends into the ground before ascending up the arch and emerging out onto the path with a full view of the cove. Daylight gets into the stairwell in the arch through angled pieces of the weathering steel cladding. 

Exit Section & Plan

The visitor descends down a staircase built into the nal lower arch, where they can either exit immediately through a vertical staircase (this becomes a sensory experience as sounds of the whales, recorded via hydrophone placed in the middle of the cove, are played in the dark stairwell) and back to the water to be picked up by the boat. However, the guest may also choose to go the opposite direction and continue onto the lookout bridge for a much closer view of the water. 

Material Palette

The architecture is site-specific to this marine environment. Being located on the sound, the water holds an important role; it can be used as a material. The weathering steel arches (protruding from the land) meet concrete piers projecting from the water, and the corten clad path rests upon the lower concrete arches. Overtime, the concrete elements will be painted with rust by the water and rain. These arches, spanning from land to sea, emphasize the duality between man and whale. 


Cladding Detail


The visitors should be seen and heard by the animals as little as possible.

Cathedrals speak an architectural language of silence, as they encourage the visitor to be quiet. The spaces are almost always dramatic with a series of monumental, repetitious arches.

This program became a series of arches. The lower arches form a path that the visitor walks along and the taller arches form a space that the visitor walks through. The path is 160- 200 feet above sea level (roughly the limits of orcas’ eyesight). 


The arches grew and developed throughout the project until they reached a truly monumental scale.  It isthe structure’s duty, after all, to leave a mark in the environment and prove what a presence architecture can have.  

The visitor should be in awe of the monumentality, for the architecture marks the landscape, bringing awareness to certain conditions (in this case, the condition is the animal observatory) through its scale.

Hanging Chain Model

This model was inspired by the hanging chain models of Antoni Gaudi, who made them to examine catenary curves, curves that an idealized hanging chain or cable assumes under its own weight when supported only at its ends. It helps one visualize what a cove surrounded by these arches would look like. In the end, the taller arches were not true catenary curves, but weighted catenary curves, for the verticality created more dynamic spatial qualities. 

Cheesecloth & Starch Model

This model was created in a similar manner to the hanging chain one. Strips of cheesecloth were attached to the underside of the board and left to hang in a catenary shape. They were then dipped in liquid starch, left to dry, and then could be ipped over when stiffened. While the result was not perfect, it gives off a deteriorating aesthetic (like decaying whale bones or an eroding ruin). 

Preliminary Site Models

Entrance & Exit Study Models

Lookout Study Model

Structural Model