The urban waterfront is an environment of great importance. Because of its location, waterfront development has typically served the city as a major economic driver through its shipping and manufacturing industries. However, many of these cities are transitioning from an industry based economy to a knowledge based economy, thus leaving many industrial waterfront complexes abandoned, desolate, and highly under-utilized along the water’s edge.

In order for future success, new development along the waterfront should provide the following:

  1. Reorient the interface of the waterfront by establishing a two-way system that allows for both maritime and urban activity to coexist and prosper together
  2. Combine the strong presence of maritime life with the increased desire for recreation amongst city dwellers, resulting in a desirable outdoor environment for physical activity and interaction
  3. Utilize the historical presence of the site to foster creative design that is rooted in cultural awareness and sustainable practice

Case Study: Historic Pier 70 On the southeastern side of the San Francisco waterfront, one can find the historic industrial site of Pier 70. Situated in between the San Francisco Bay and Dogpatch neighborhood, the 67 acre site has the physical and historical presence to provide prosperous future development. The site consists of architecturally rich buildings, ranging from heavy steel framed warehouses to highly articulated brick buildings. Most of these structures are in good condition, allowing them to be adaptively reused to provide local and city wide amenities.

Pier 70 is recognized as the most intact 19th century industrial complex west of the Mississippi River. Dating back to the 1850’s, Pier 70 has played a pivotal role in some of America’s most significant historical events such as the California Gold Rush, building of the Transcontinental Railroad, Spanish- American War, and both World Wars. In these events, manufacturing at Pier 70 produced rope, gunpowder, and mechanical equipment, but it is the ship building and repair activity that is most notable in the site’s history.

With the transition of economic production, Pier 70 now stands almost completely abandoned and unused. The following text and images will provide an approach to revitalizing this historic site through contemporary intervention. The adaptive reuse of the Union Iron Works Machine Shop will be used as a specific case study for this research.

Building Design Research: Machine Shop (Building 113/114), Pier 70 The Union Iron Works Machine Shop is the earliest remaining structure at Pier 70. This building consists of three distinct pieces that include the eastern portion (1885), the western portion (1886), and the middle connector (1914). Because of the important production that took place inside its walls, as well as its architectural character, the Machine Shop is widely regarded as the most significant building at Pier 70.

Throughout its lifetime, the building has gone through many programmatic and formal transformations. The building was originally constructed as two separate structures with a rail line that traversed between the two buildings, carrying supplies between the other areas of Pier 70 and the city beyond.

The eastern portion of the building originally served as the Blacksmith and Boiler shop, while the western portion served as the Machine Shop. The middle connector was constructed in 1914 and ultimately established the entire building as a Machine Shop.

Currently, the building stands in fair condition with its structure and cathedral-like interior spaces still intact and waiting to be reawakened with activity.

Reinterpreting the Machine Shop The vision of reclaiming the Machine Shop from obsolescence is to establish a symbiotic relationship between the building’s historic past and its future impact on the city by way of contemporary intervention. In order to accomplish this, the building will be reinterpreted into three new typologies:

Industrial Village - “New American Workplace” The western portion of the building will reiterate the historical use of the building by fostering mixed use within the vast interior spaces. This mixed use development will promote collaboration and interaction amongst tenants and its visitors by respecting the historic circulation and utilizing the existing structure as an infrastructure for future growth.

The Connector - “Circulation/Gathering” The middle connector will regain its prominence as a pivotal circulation point between the Industrial Village and Museum. Situated with an axial layout, The Connector will provide circulation between the other new typologies as well as a strong indoor/outdoor relationship.

Museum/Gallery - “Displaying Production” The eastern portion is the earliest remaining structure at Pier 70, and will therefore serve as the key structure for promoting the history of Pier 70 and all of its ship building activity. Along will fixed gallery space for the maritime display, the Museum will also contain flexible gallery space that will be devoted to local artists and craftsmen. These exhibits will establish a symbiotic relationship between the production of the past along with the contemporary.

This submittal is the ongoing completion of an architectural thesis performed by the author at the Newschool of Architecture and Design. A finished research design will be completed by June 2013.