The Santa Monica Pier has a history stark in contrast from past to present. What was once a means to transport trash out to the sea is now is a place of social enjoyment. The next step in its evolution brings art and energy production to its purpose, adding layers of sustainable consideration and furthering its cultural opportunities. WAKE UP is a proposal that transforms retired swan boats into contemporary energy generating pieces of water art.

WAKE UP at the Santa Monica Pier combines the pier’s history, present and future goals in a dynamic spectacle that reflects the pier’s amusement character. Like most industries, amusement parks replace old, worn equipment often; however, in the case of an amusement park, the equipment has personality: old merry-go-round animals with wild expressions, child-size locomotives in primary paint and oversized swans that act as boats. This project questions whether the retired personalities of amusement parks can serve a new function, changing their purpose and keeping them out of landfills. Even more-so, what if the equipment became a new element that showcased and functioned in a way to raise social awareness about reuse and sustainable practices? In this way the repurposing process becomes an event, a thing people come to see, gather together to discuss, and then spread the message to their family and friends. 

The technology behind WAKE UP utilizes the most abundant and local force to the pier: the wake of the ocean. Wave Energy Converters are devices that use the natural motion of tidal movements to generate usable power. One such system was developed in the 1970’s by professor Stephen Salter and dubbed “Salter’s Duck”. The Ducks consist of a series of wedge-shaped devices located at the ocean’s surface with a central axis throughout, housing the mechanics to generate power. As a wave encounters the underside of the wedges, the force pushes the wedges upwards, causing rotation at the central axis. This rotation creates power through hydraulic generators, which can be stored and converted into usable electricity.

WAKE UP reuses the retired swan boats to function as Salter’s Ducks generating offshore energy and helps power the pier’s amusement park. The swan boat’s body is modified, creating the necessary wedge shape, and a central axis links multiple boats together in staggered rows. The system is dubbed the Salt Swan in reference to Mr. Salter and the atypical presence of swans in salt water. The Salt Swans are deployed just beyond the existing breakwater line to capture the most wave energy. When waves hit the swans, they emit a celebratory honking sound as a spectacle for the public to enjoy, but more importantly is the public’s understanding of how the system works. 

The Salt Swans are linked to the shore by a series of lit buoys that display the level of charge, much like a gas gauge in a car. As the onshore battery fills up, the buoys begin to light up in a suspenseful sequence. At full capacity, a dedicated, swan-inspired high striker rings it bell. Moments later, a light show ripples through the amusement park in celebration. 

WAKE UP was a shortlist finalist for the 2016 competition and was featured in the following Powering Places: Land Art Generator Initiative, Santa Monica publication.


Project Team:
Henry Moll
Mary Carroll-Coelho

Santa Monica, CA


Competition Entry, Shortlist Finalist