West 8 wins Fort Mason Design Competition

Fort Mason Center announced today that West 8 has won the design competition for the 13-acre waterfront campus in San Francisco.  The three-month long competition sought creative and practical design concepts to further enliven and integrate the site. The design will enable Fort Mason Center to realize its full potential, both as a vital and stimulating location for arts and culture, and as an attractive destination for enjoyment of the site.

West 8 was selected from an initial list of 15 firms that in July expressed interest in the ideas competition.

West 8’s design calls for seven key strategies that bolster and preserve Fort Mason’s legacy and military identity while activating the water’s edge, improving pedestrian access and parking, and enlivening spaces for expanded public programming and arts. Pier One is reinvented as a publicly accessible art-oriented hotel, while the other buildings diversify programming to create a robust cultural destination centered around lively public plazas.  Waterside improvements bring wooden decks, floating pontoons, and bridges that weave the site together, bring people to the water’s edge, and showcase amazing views of the shore and Bay.

“West 8 and their team demonstrated a deep appreciation of our heritage and a unique vision for our future,” said Rich Hillis, the center’s executive director.  “We are excited to begin working with West 8 to ensure the sustainability of Fort Mason Cetner for the next 35 years.”

About the Design

Fort Mason Center has a unique role in the historic San Francisco waterfront, with a rich history as a coastal defense battery during the Civil War and as the headquarters of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation during World War II.  Fort Mason is currently a community destination, and has the potential to expand its role as a regional cultural destination. Today, however, Fort Mason Center is an underutilized part of the waterfront.

West 8 team’s award-winning entry to the Fort Mason Center design competition responds to the maritime and military heritage of the site, creating a more vivid public-oriented identity. The plan anchors Fort Mason Center into the vibrant cultural fabric of San Francisco. Throughout the design process, the team emphasized the idea of ‘no park-scaping’—that is, not re-inventing Fort Mason as a park, but highlighting the military aesthetic of the center in all aspects of the vision. The Plan calls for seven core design strategies, rather than focusing on a sole solution, so that Fort Mason Center has the flexibility to implement the project in phases over time.

At the initial site visit, the team was struck by the monumental silhouette ofMonterey Cypress trees along the ridge behind Fort Mason Center. The cypress frame the site, but are not contiguous as the ridgeline continues south. The West 8 design extends the ridgeline and continues the silhouette, creating a seamless cypress canopy and ADA pathway to lower Fort Mason. Embedded within this extension of the ridgeline, the West 8 team integrated a new welcome facility and gateway to the Center. Today, pedestrians, bikes and vehicles merge at a stress point here, but the Plan graciously separates and monumentalizes the feeling of arrival. An impressive new wooden bridge doubles as a canopy into Fort Mason Center, encouraging visitors to explore the Center’s activities and views.

Through deliberate programming and public space design, Fort Mason Center becomes a vital and stimulating location for arts and culture. The four warehouse buildings expand programming and integrate with a cultural plaza filled with local musicians and artisans, ranging from food and wine to artwork and other handicrafts. Pier 1 will be known as an Art-El (art-oriented hotel), creating a travel destination that offers a publically-accessible art exhibition space and spa, education center, and restaurants.

A pedestrian scale environment is emphasized throughout the site. The new granite-paved plazas trace and emphasize the historic rail tracks. Wooden platforms glide across the old rail tracks to serve multiple functions in the plaza—as furnishings, for display, and as stages—which are flexible for many types of programs.

Visitors wanting to get close to the water can play and experience a world class waterfront with the implementation of stepped platforms into the existing boat slips. Three wooden floating pontoons each have a different design expression: a viewing dock, a swimming pool, and a hill. The pontoons are movable to respond to an aquatic event, consolidate seating areas for viewing the America’s Cup, or creating a large floating event space.

About Fort Mason

For over 35 years Fort Mason Center has served as a unique community destination in San Francisco, hosting arts and cultural events, organizations, and programs in historic warehouse buildings and piers along San Francisco’s scenic northern waterfront. It is an extraordinary example of repurposing former military land and buildings for contemporary uses, including museums, performance spaces, and a vibrant schedule of art and cultural exhibitions and events. Located just inside San Francisco Bay, Fort Mason Center is part of the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Notes to the editors:

  • Project facts:

    Project: Fort Mason Center Design Competition
    Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
    Client: Fort Mason Center, Executive Director Rich Hillis Design: 2012
    Size: 13 acres
    Date: June – Nov 2012
    Compensation fee: 20,000 USD
    Design Team: West 8 urban design & landscape architecture, Bionic Landscape, Ila Berman – Studio Matrix, Jensen Architects.
    Consultants: Architectural Resources Group INC, HR&A Advisors, Impark LLC, Langdon Associates, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Moffat & Nichol Engineers.

  • For more information about Fort Mason, please visit www.fortmason.org.
  • This competition would not have been possible without the vision and support of Ann Hatch and the Tin Man Fund.

West 8 is an award-winning international office for urban design and landscape architecture founded in 1987. Over the last 20 years West 8 has established itself as a leading practice with an international team of 70 architects, urban designers, landscape architects and industrial engineers. West 8 developed projects all over the world in places such as Copenhagen, London, Moscow, New York, Madrid, Toronto and Amsterdam. The office gained international recognition with projects such as Schouwburgplein in Rotterdam (NL), Borneo-Sporenburg in Amsterdam (NL), Chiswick Park in London (UK) and Expo ’02 in Yverdon-les-Bains (CH). Many of the projects are the result of groundbreaking entries in important international competitions. Recently won competitions include Toronto Waterfront in Toronto (CA), Governors Island in New York (USA) and Playa de Palma in Mallorca (ES).

With a multi-disciplinary approach to complex design issues, West 8 has extensive experience in large-scale urban master planning and design, landscape interventions, waterfront projects, parks, squares, and gardens. They also develop concepts and visions for large-scale planning issues that involve global warming, urbanization, and infrastructure. In 2008, West 8 opened its New York office.

Amongst the numerous awards received by West 8 are the Honor Award of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), Lifetime Achievement Award for Architecture 2011, Mondriaan Fund (formerly BKVB),  the International Urban Landscape Gold Award (IULA), the Prix de Rome, the Dutch Maaskant Award, the Bijhouwer Award, the Rosa Barba First European Landscape Prize, the Green Pin and the Veronica Rudge Green Prize for Urban Design.

For information regarding the Fort Mason Project: West 8 urban design & landscape architecture p.c. 333 Hudson Street Suite 905, New York, NY 10013, Tel: +1 212-285-0088.

For general information about other projects of West 8: Public Relations, Winnie Poon, Jan Breukelman and Tamara Kool, +31 (0)10 – 485 58 01, pr@west8.com, www.west8.com