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The renovation of San Francisco’s historic Pier 1 is the result of an intensive private-public partnership between a prominent locally based corporation—Prologis—and a key public agency—the Port of San Francisco. The project offered an opportunity to reinvent workplace patterns by creating a new space that reinforces each tenant’s corporate culture, with particular regard to the collaborative process…

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Historic Transit at the Ferry Building

San Francisco Waterfront (1849 – 1909) — [13 Images]

1849: The Gold Rush—San Francisco becomes the busiest and most important port on the West Coast

1898: A Page Brown designed Ferry Building is constructed on the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street. The Ferry Building, originally called the Union Depot and Ferry House, designed by A. Page Brown, was constructed at the foot of Market Street, replacing the original wood frame structure built many years earlier. With its tall Beaux Arts tower and rhythmic arcades, the Ferry Building, San Francisco’s gateway to the world, immediately became the City’s iconic “postcard” representation until the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1938.

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The Waterfront’s Early Days

San Francisco's Completed 'City Beautiful' Waterfront

Construction Begins on Civic Finger Piers 1, 1½, 3 and 5 (1918 – 1928) — [6 Images]

Construction begins on civic finger Piers 1, 1½, 3 and 5, at the heart of the San Francisco waterfront north of the Ferry Building.

The construction of these finger piers spanned over a decade and was led by Chief Engineer of the State Harbor Commission, Frank G. White. Pier 1 opened in 1931. Unlike the piers to the south of the Ferry Building, the piers to the north were built in the Beaux-Arts architectural style, similar to New York City’s Cunard Line and White Star Line Piers (of Titanic fame), designed by Warren and Wetmore, architects of New York’s Grand Central Station.

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The Port Matures

Panoramic View of Waterfront Construction

Pier 1 Completed — [4 Images]

Pier 1 is built. The concrete platform, supported by concrete beams and a 10’x10’ grid of concrete-jacketed wood piles, extends 703 feet into the Bay to the east behind the bulkhead building. The Pier is connected to a system of marginal wharves and sea walls upon which the bulkhead building rests—in other words, the bulkhead building was built principally on the land, while the pier platform and shed were built over the water on tall Douglas fir piles. The pier shed building, an elegant steel frame and concrete structure, was designed for the loading and unloading of ships. The open aprons on both the north and southern sides accommodated cargo loading and transport. Neither the bulkhead building, the pier platform nor the pier shed were laterally braced, and seismically could not meet contemporary building codes.

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Pier 1 and an Active Port

Bay Bridge under construction in 1934

The Effect of the Bay Bridge — [4 Images]

The Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge opened, resulting in an almost instantaneous decline in ferry service. Overnight the Ferry Building’s and the nearby pier’s raison d’être became obsolete. Simultaneously there became a greater reliance on trucking as an important mode of goods distribution and shipping. The pier sheds’ internal column grids impeded truck maneuvering and the narrow pier aprons, designed specifically to accommodate trains, did not work well for trucks. This corresponded to periods of labor unrest, much of it focused on the Waterfront, the Port and its operations. It was here in San Francisco that important Labor Movement figures such as Harry Bridges emerged.

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Waterfront in Decline

After the war, many changes were afoot on the West Coast in terms of shipping and Port activities. The Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach was burgeoning, break-bulk shipping was declining in favor of container shipping, the City of San Francisco was urbanizing quickly, expanding into the now desirable, formerly maritime industrial areas of the City. The impact of industrial trucking engendered a new and different contemporary port configuration, and the network of Interstate Highways enabled this change to come rapidly. Finger Piers like Pier 1 had become dilapidated and obsolete and, with the 1953 construction of the Embarcadero Freeway, the once vibrant Port of San Francisco was cut off from its lifeblood, the City of San Francisco.

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Pier 1 as a Parking Lot

Pier 1 and the Waterfront – Neglected and Forgotten — [6 Images]

Pier 1 used as a Parking Lot with miscellaneous office and retail uses in the Bulkhead Building. Finger Piers like Pier 1 had become dilapidated and obsolete and, with the 1953 construction of the Embarcadero Freeway, the once vibrant Port of San Francisco was cut off from its lifeblood, the City of San Francisco.

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Collapsed Freeway after Loma Prieta Earthquake

Loma Prieta Earthquake Damages Embarcadero Freeway — [4 Images]

The Loma Prieta Earthquake occurred in October, badly damaging the Embarcadero Freeway.

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Present Day Ferry Building

The City and the Waterfront Reconnected (1990 – 1993) — [7 Images]

After detailed engineering analysis and a public outcry spearheaded by the San Francisco design community, the decision was made to demolish the double decker elevated highway. Suddenly San Francisco and its waterfront had the chance to be reconnected, and the piers adjacent to the Ferry Building offered seemingly unlimited development opportunities.

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Train Tracks in Pier 1 South Apron before Redesign

Competition Brief Issued by the Port of San Francisco — [5 Images]

With the demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway in the early 1990s, the Port of San Francisco made the decision to issue its initial Developer-Architect Public-Private RFP to re-purpose the first …

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The Building

Working with Prologis and the Port, a consultant team and the Port, the design team developed the following objectives for the transformation of Pier 1.

The new design would feature would be public access all around the Pier, including flexible public meeting spaces, a new public space at the east end of the Pier, and a public terrace connecting the Pier aprons and the Embarcadero. The space features a celebration of the Pier’s history and design through exhibition space and interpretive graphics, for example, retracing the historic railroad route through the Pier onto the southern Pier apron.

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Pier 1 Proposed Elevations

Prologis/SWWM Team Produces Competition Entry — [13 Images]

Four teams submitted and the Prologis/SMWM team was selected to partner with the Port. This was the first Public-Private Partnership undertaken by the Port and set both the tone and process for the re-purposing of subsequent historic San Francisco finger piers.

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Pier1 Team Short

Pier 1 Team Selected

Working with Prologis, SMWM selected a team of design and technical consultants to work together on this new pioneering project:

Rutherford and Chekene–Structural Engineers (Rich Niewiarowski, Alan Kren)
Flack and Kurtz—Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Engineers (Reg Monteyne, Allan Montpellier)
Historic Consultant—Page and Turnbull (Jay Turnbull)
Graphic Design—Debra Nichols
Workplace Guru—Fritz Steele
Marine Engineer—Moffatt and Nichols (Bo Jensen)
Underwater Engineer—Power Engineering
General Contractor—Nibbi Brothers (Larry Nibbi, Joe Mazetti)
Construction Manager –Nick Sica
Land Use Attorney—Shepherd Mullin (Bob Thompson)
BCDC Attorney—Mike Wilmar
Architect of Record, Port Offices—TomEliotFisch (Doug Tom)

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Pier 1 Cross Section

Study of Existing Conditions at Pier 1 — [2 Images]

Prologis and SMWM/Perkins+Will (the wining design team) work to understand the existing conditions at Pier 1 including the exterior building envelope, seismic conditions and existing underwater structural conditions. Via the discovery of poor seismic conditions, and the need to redo underwater structure, the design team decides not to add parking as part of the pier development.

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Historic Places National Register Plaque

Application for National Register of Historic Places Granted

This award allowed the project to be awarded tax credits, which permitted greater flexibility in the financing of the Pier 1 project.

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SMWM Pier 1 Architectural Site Model

Specific Design Studies at Pier 1 Conclude — [15 Images]

These studies included the expansion of public access as required by the Bay Expansion and Development Commission, fenestration and sustainability (heating and cooling) studies.

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Pier 1 during Construction

Seismic Upgrades and Construction — [30 Images]

Piles and pile caps are put into place, and construction begins.

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Pier 1 Section

Workplace Design Engagement (1999 – 2001)

The workplace design team, with input by Prologis CEO Hamid R. Moghadam , workplace consultant Fritz Steele and design firm SMWM establish basic Workplace Design.

These included a more engaged workforce, willing to work in a more collaborative fashion across disciplines and break down departmental silos. The objectives also aimed to create an atmosphere that inspired creativity and more opportunities for ad hoc interactions. The plan included spaces for staff to find private places to think and do focused work, as well as space for staff to collaborate in various sized teams, gather socially, and host large events.

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Pier 1 Interior

Renovation Completed, Prologis Moves In — [26 Images]

Prologis moved into its new headquarters, as did the Port of San Francisco and several notable tenants, including the venture capital firm of Weston Presidio and the Venture Law Group. 2000: The final workplace goals for the Pier 1 Project are articulated to drive the design.

These primary goals were to create a highly effective new work environment for Prologis in San Francisco. The workspace would be a testing ground for new concepts such as ways of using space and other resources efficiently: a workplace for the future. This combination of special building and unique location transformed the way Prologis works.

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The Waterfront

ULI Award

Pier 1 Honored with Awards

Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence – Best Rehabilitation 2001 San Francisco Business Times Real Estate Deals of the Year – Best Rehabilitation/Renovation 2001 Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Outstanding …

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The Culture

A New Era

“The rehabilitation of the Pier 1 bulkhead and shed was a historic moment for the Port and the City of San Francisco. The remarkable preservation and transformation of a cargo shipping pier into the Port’s headquarters has been recognized with numerous architectural and preservation design awards, and has allowed the public to learn about and appreciate San Francisco’s maritime history.”

Monique Moyer
Executive Director
Port of San Francisco

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Pier 1 Today

Pier 1′s Uses today:

2001-2003 New Pier 1 Waterfront conference rooms used as the Port Commission Hearing Room by the Port while the Ferry Building was being completed
2002 National American Institute of Architects has special meeting at Pier 1 and the Ferry Building to celebrate the future opening of the Ferry Building
2010 Foundation for San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage lecture series
2012 SF Giants hold Mission Rock project public meeting # 1
2001- Present Workshops, seminars, planning sessions by the Port, various other government agencies and community groups (SPUR, SF Architectural Heritage, SF Planning Department, etc.)

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