Ford Assembly Building | Notes of Interest

The restoration and preservation of the Ford Assembly Building on the San Francisco Bay waterfront, saved an historic architectural icon from the wrecking ball, and converted a long-vacant auto plant into a current-day model of urban revitalization and sustainability. The 525,000 square foot building had been designed by Albert Kahn for Henry Ford, and constructed in 1931. Following the facility’s initial car factory function, the Ford Building had many incarnations, including the famous World War II tank factory "manned" by Rosie-the-Riveters.

In 1989, the Loma Prieta Earthquake's devastation of the structure rendered it dangerous and unusable. Finding a way to revive the magnificent but crumbling 500,000 square foot industrial hulk was challenging; multiple attempts had failed to create a financially viable way to adaptively reuse the building, while adhering to the preservation standards of the National Park Service and the State of California Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The current owner, who acquired the property in 2004, and his architect successfully completed the building in 2009.

The design of the Ford Building restoration allows the considerable mix of uses at Ford. The west side of the original car "assembly" portion of the building is two stories, the east side is one story. Typically the second floor is office, and the first level is a mixture of manufacturing, R&D labs, support space and retail. Along the east side are loading docks, while the west side has the official front doors of several companies. The Craneway, a 40,000 square-foot room for a wide variety of events and The BoilerHouse Restaurant are welcome amenities for both tenants and visitors to the Ford campus.

Design excellence for the Ford Assembly Building meant instilling new purpose and function by revitalizing an already rich historic architectural icon while respecting its existing industrial aesthetic, cultural and community.

Additional Credits

  • Engineer: Charles M. Salter Associates (Acoustical); Mechanical Design Studio, Inc. (Mechanical); The Crosby Group; Gregory P. Luth & Associates (Structural)
  • General Contractor: Dalzell Corporation
  • Historic Preservation: Preservation Architecture
  • Landscape Architect: SWA Group
  • Lighting Design: Architecture + Light
  • Photo Credit: © Billy Hustace; © Anna Finke; © Steve Proehl; © Alex Vertikoff

Ford Assembly Building

Jury Comments

The envelope is intact despite years of neglect and functioning in a fashion of research and design fabrication not dissimilar to Khan's original intentions.

This renovated facility has improved the region by saving an older building and its embodied energy.

Provides a large space for the community to bring various diverse groups of the area together.

2011 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture Jury

  • David Miller, FAIA, (Chair)
  • The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP
  • Seattle
  • Ashley Clark, Assoc. AIA
  • LandDesign Inc.
  • Charlotte
  • Curtis Fentress, FAIA
  • Fentress Architects
  • Denver
  • T. Gunny Harboe, FAIA
  • Harboe Architect, PC
  • Chicago
  • David Neuman, FAIA
  • University of Virginia, University Architect
  • Charlottesville, Va.
  • Louis Pounders, FAIA
  • ANF Architects
  • Memphis
  • Sarah Snodgrass, AIAS Representative
  • Parsons The New School for Design
  • New York City
  • Allison Williams, FAIA
  • Perkins & Will
  • San Francisco
  • Jennifer Yoos, AIA
  • VJAA
  • Minneapolis

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