Forces That Shape the Bay

With a panoramic view of the entire San Francisco Bay area, Forces That Shape the Bay is an interactive science park telling the story of the tectonic, hydrologic and cultural forces which sculpted this region.


Forces explored new ground in exhibition design by combining large-scale, full-body mechanical interactives with content integrated into the landscape. The design was developed through the team efforts of the Lawrence Hall of Science, the design firm of Jeff Kennedy Associates, and the landscape architecture firm of Ken Kay Associates.





My original role—developing exhibit content and design—evolved during construction: I became the on-site guy who knew how the content was embedded in the physical site and who could translate this to tradespeople.

One of my contributions was this idealized fault offset which cuts right through the exhibit. It illustrates the relative motion along the Hayward Fault—less than a mile away.

One of two erosion tables I developed with co-worker John-Michael Selzer. When left alone, the trickle of water erodes a miniature creek channel, beautifully modeling the patterns and behaviors of a real creek. Or...

...when not left alone, it is a well-used, well-loved place for children to engage in some serious play with dynamic systems. The elemental materials of sand and water, well-presented, give constant feedback to every experiment, every mound or channel or dam. It has one of the longest engagement times of any exhibit.

I got to work with geologists and sculptors to art-direct this idealized cross-section of the Berkeley hills.

A mechanical reverse fault visitors can ride

The water feature represents the journey of Bay Area freshwater, cascading from among Sierran granite, over foothill limestone and marble into the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, through delta channels to the bay.

Kids can control the flow of hundreds of gallons of water through a maze of diversion channels. I worked closely with the general contractor to engineer the behavior of the water: it needed to flow through different channels with different dam configurations, and dam up enough to be exciting without flooding.


Late afternoon light. Besides being a place for thousands of visitors every month to learn about the geologic life of the Bay Area, Forces has become a beautiful place just to be.


Photos by Allan Ayres


Filed in: Exhibits