San Francisco Art Institute - Fort Mason Center Pier 2

Architect: Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

Owner: San Francisco Art Institute/Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture

Location: San Francisco

Project site: Historic structure or district

Building program type(s): Education – College/University (campus-level)

Located at the edge of San Francisco Bay, an historic U.S. Army warehouse at Fort Mason has been transformed into a new campus for the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), creating a dynamic new hub for expanded arts education and public engagement. This historic adaptive reuse preserves the industrial integrity of the landmark structure, supports the school’s pedagogical goals, and integrates advanced sustainable building systems. The project integrates student studios, public exhibition galleries, flexible teaching spaces, a black box theater, and a workshop/maker space, while supporting SFAI’s commitment to positioning artists at the center of public life.

"The design team recognized the assets of the existing structure and created a great, low-energy building with a healthy interior environment." ~ Jury Statement

Central atrium and clerestory light monitor with workshop visible to the right and student gallery and media theater to the left. Image: Bruce Damonte

Located at the edge of San Francisco Bay, the historic U.S. Army warehouse Pier 2 at Fort Mason has been transformed into a new campus for San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) creating a dynamic new hub for arts education and public engagement. The adaptive rehabilitation of the pier shed preserves the industrial integrity of the landmark structure, integrates advanced sustainable strategies, reuses existing building resources, supports SFAI’s pedagogical and environmental goals, and forges new community connections. San Francisco Art Institute is “dedicated to the intrinsic value of art and its vital role in shaping and enriching society and the individual.” In support of this mission SFAI has created an arts campus at the heart of the vibrant Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture (FMCAC) in an urban National Park. The design interweaves historic and contemporary, leveraging the dramatic light filled industrial structure to create 160 studios, workshop, media theater, flexible teaching spaces, and public exhibition galleries. The rehabilitation of the 1909 concrete and steel structure capitalizes not only on the embodied energy of the existing building materials but also on the embodied cultural history. A unique public/private partnership was formed between SFAI, FMCAC, and the National Park Service (NPS) to create the new arts center in the Golden Gate National Parks. The collaborative process was supported by a complex funding program which enabled the evolution of Pier 2 from a military processing point for soldiers and supplies during four wars into an interdisciplinary art campus and community cultural center. The project promotes not only the social/cultural value of the triple bottom line but also the economic and environmental values by integrating cost effective sustainable systems, including a new high efficiency radiant slab, a rooftop PV solar system providing 100 percent of electricity required, and by maximizing the intrinsic daylight throughout.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2015

Year of substantial project completion: 2017

Gross conditioned floor area: 69,422 sq ft

Gross unconditioned floor area: 0 sq ft

Number of stories: 2

Project Climate Zone: California climate zone 3 (Title 24)

Annual hours of operation: 8,760

Site area: 53,750 sq ft

Project site context/setting: urban

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $26.5 million

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 75,000

Project Team

Engineer - Acoustical: Charles M. Salter Associates

Engineer - Civil: Moffatt & Nichol

Engineer - MEP and Fire Protection: Integral Group Engineers

Engineer - Structural: Rutherford & Chekene Structural Engineers

General Contractor: Oliver and Company

Lighting Consultant: Architectural Lighting Design

Owner Project Manager: Mack5

Property Manager/Landlord: Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA)  

Theater Design: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander


Michelle Addington, Dean, School of Architecture, The University of Texas Austin, Austin, Texas

Jennifer Devlin-Herbert, FAIA, EHDD. San Francisco

Kevin Schorn, AIA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, New York

Julie V. Snow, FAIA, Snow Kreilich, Minneapolis

M. Susan Ubbelohde, LOISOS + UBBELOHDE, Alameda, California

Jury comments

The team’s resourceful use of a modest budget maximized the improvement of an historic pier building in this retrofit project. Recorded performance data showed that the building exceeds the 2030 Challenge targets with a measured EUI less than half of the predicted site EUI, and the net measure EUI delivers an 83 percent reduction for this building type.

The major design moves—such as natural ventilation combined with radiant floor heating and improvements to the thermal performance of the envelope—are well suited to the local climate. The plumbing strategy elegantly and economically resolves the provision of art studio wash sinks combined with the ecological fragility of the bay water directly below the pier.

The design team recognized the assets of the existing structure and created a great, low-energy building with a healthy interior environment. This renovation was a perfect example of doing just enough to support a new dynamic arts and public engagement use, while retaining the essential “coolness” of the original.

Image credits

SFAI COTE_Main Image_k

Bruce Damonte

SFAI COTE_01 Integration_k

Bruce Damonte

SFAI COTE_05 Economy 3_k

Bruce Damonte

SFAI COTE_05 Economy 1_k

Bruce Damonte

SFAI COTE_07 Wellness 1_k

Bruce Damonte

SFAI COTE_Image 1_k

Bruce Damonte

SFAI COTE_10 Discovery 2_k

Bruce Damonte

Fort Mason Center w City View

Fort Mason Center