The Netherlands

West 8 urban design & landscape architecture b.v.

Nico Koomanskade 1021
3072 LM Rotterdam
The Netherlands

+31 (0) 10 485 5801


West 8 Brussels urban design & landscape architecture bvba

Waaienberg 123
1745 Opwijk

+31 (0) 10 485 5801

United States

West 8 urban design & landscape architecture p.c.

2133 Arch Street, Suite 101
Philadelphia, PA 19103
United States of America

+1 347 371 2252

Balancing Innovation and Historic Preservation

Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, California, USA

Connecting, activating, and revitalizing Fort Mason Center into a leading arts and culture destination.

Fort Mason Center is a unique piece of San Francisco’s waterfront collection, with a rich multi-layered history as a coastal defence 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.

The awarded conceptual plan produced by Team West 8 is an outcome of a design study; it presents the key recommendations for connecting, activating, and revitalizing Fort Mason Center into a leading arts and culture destination. By no means a master plan, this vision is meant as an early, conceptual framework for future planning and ongoing development.

The premise that the view from the Fort Mason Center is “a vista that is owned by nobody but should be experienced by everybody” has informed the development of the conceptual design vision, which strikes a balance between innovation and historic preservation as opposed to focusing on a single solution. This will allow the Fort Mason Center flexibility to evolve over time.

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 series of stacked boxes and a modular hill. The renewal of the primary waterfront will create innovative places for public enjoyment, which are in harmony with the natural ecology.

The plan devotes attention to a facility that’s nearly 100 years old and contains some unique and iconic infrastructure, which must be upgraded in order to not only preserve Fort Mason Center as a historic resource but also transform it into a cultural commodity.  The programming of the piers and warehouse buildings will be expanded and integrated with a lively cultural plaza. With a well-curated events calendar, Fort Mason Center will be home to a new Art-El (art-oriented hotel), a selection of excellent restaurants cafes, creative enterprises and a number of renowned cultural institutions. Through deliberate programming and public space design, Fort Mason Center will cultivate a unique culture that reflects the heart and spirit of San Francisco.

A pedestrian-scale environment is emphasized throughout the site. The new granite-paved plazas will 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.

Fort Mason Center will be a new public space embedded in the vibrant cultural fabric of San Francisco that is inspirational, educational and relevant to audiences within the region, the country and throughout the world.

Fort Mason Center in partnership with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

© West 8

Bionic Landscape, Scaleshift, Jensen Architects, Architectural Resources Group INC, HR&A Advisors, Impark LLC, Langdon Associates, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Moffat & Nichol Engineers