Designed by Perkins+Will San Francisco, the renovation of San Francisco’s historic Pier 1 is the result of an intensive public-private partnership between a prominent locally based corporation— AMB Property Corporation—and a key public agency—the Port of San Francisco.
The project transformed this dilapidated warehouse at the heart of San Francisco’s waterfront into a modern office building, and provided over an acre of new public shoreline access. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the building features a public lobby and gallery space with interpretive exhibits that highlight San Francisco’s rich maritime history.
Built in 1931 as a sugar warehouse, Pier 1 is a prime example of the City Beautiful civic bulkhead buildings and finger piers that characterize the elegant, historic central section of the San Francisco waterfront. Security was paramount to the original design of the warehouse. The majority of the pier facades were blank, featuring corrugated metal roll-up cargo doors for access. High obscure glass windows and a roof monitor with fixed steel sash allowed daylight into the warehouse while preserving security. Pier 1 sits just north of the Ferry Building, the jewel in the crown of the waterfront, and served not only warehousing and rail transport needs, but also accommodated ferry boats and overflow from the Ferry Building. As traditional shipping was replaced by modern container shipping, Port activities moved across the Bay to Oakland, leaving Pier 1 and its neighboring finger piers obsolete. As a result, the structure was under-utilised and served as a parking lot for many years.
In the late 1990s, when the project began, Pier 1 was in a state of decay. Perkins+Will was tasked with repurposing the building for exceptional new office space, and took an innovative “green approach” to the building’s transformation. The project’s strategies included adding operable transparent windows for day lighting and natural ventilation and to allow users access to the magnificent views of the Bay. In order to conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Properties, it was critical that that these new windows be both compatible with, and also subtly distinguishable from the existing sash.
Upon investigation, the design team discovered that the original steel sash at Pier 1 had been made by Crittall, and that the factory still not only was in operation but also manufactured steel windows that almost perfectly matched the building’s 1930s sash. The only difference between old and new was the “Christmas tree” mullion detail found in the original sash. Responding to the need for both compatibility and distinction, Perkins+Will incorporated new Crittall sash below the existing Crittall sash clerestory. The new sash helped to enhance the beautiful, rhythmic structure of the existing warehouse without compromising the building’s historic character. The operable windows were also a significant part of the sustainability strategy that included green materials, access to fresh air and natural light for the occupants, and a water heat exchanger that uses the latent energy of the Bay to heat and cool the space.
This case study is based on architectural comment and submitted entry photography for recent entry in our Crittall Architectural Prize