An Historic Shipyard Reincarnation

Architect: Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects

Owner:  Orton Development, Inc.

Location: San Francisco, CA

This project is centered on the adaptive reuse of six buildings in San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood, where some of the most important naval innovations of the 19th and 20th century once emerged. The cluster of buildings, all constructed sometime between 1885 and 1941, is located on the site of the former Bethlehem Shipbuilding yards, one of the best-preserved industrial complexes west of the Mississippi River.

Faced with the challenge of shaping new homes for burgeoning tech companies, the team benefited greatly from the existing structures' solid bones and the abundant natural light streaming in from sizable windows and skylights. All of the buildings have been carefully refurbished to accommodate a vibrant range of interior architectural concepts.

The buildings include an architectural jewel in Building 102, constructed in 1912 and designed by the Beaux-Arts–educated American architect Charles Peter Weeks. Also known as the Powerhouse, the building originally was an electrical substation that generated compressed air and hydraulic power for the 69-acre shipyard. The building's formal Spanish Renaissance Revival expression camouflages its earlier workaday life. Adapting the Powerhouse for a technology company in need of ample office space required the reimagining of many spatial functions. To do so, the team inserted a new heavy timber mezzanine along two walls that overlooks the main level and defines its entry and reception area.

The  buildings include an architectural jewel in Building 102, constructed in 1912 and designed by the Beaux-arts-educated American architect Charles Peter Weeks.

Nearby, in the interconnected series of buildings—Buildings 113 to 116—demising the cavernous ship-building spaces with steel and glass walls has dramatically enhanced their spatial characteristics. The buildings house the research and development labs of Uber Advanced Technologies Group, which is focused on self-driving technology. The site's naval and technological history makes it a fitting home for the company, and the adapted structures easily accommodate its needs for office space, communal areas, vehicle storage, and laboratories.

Throughout the entire complex, the team endeavored to retain as much historic material as possible while maximizing daylight and views. It worked closely with the Port of San Francisco, the National Park Service, and the state's historic preservation office during the design and construction, ensuring the respectful interventions, while distinct, complemented the color and materiality of the existing structures. Following the clearing of the aged machinery, switchgear, and other equipment, the interior volumes were enhanced further through expansive windows and skylights. Many additional historic features, like inlaid tile flooring, gantry cranes, and light fixtures, were also restored.

Additional information

Architect: Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects

Developer: Orton Development, Inc.

Structural Engineer: Nabih Youssef Associates

Historic Architecture Consultant: Preservation Architecture

Lighting: Architecture & Light

Landscape: GLS Landscape Architecture

LEED Consultant & Sustainability Services: Stōk

Buildings 113, 114, 115, and 116:

General Contractor (Core & Shell): Nibbi Brothers

General Contractor (Tenant Improvements): Novo Construction

Civil Engineer: Sherwood Design Engineers

Mechanical Engineer:  Engineering 350

Fire/Life Safety/Code Consulting: ARS

Building 102:

General Contractor: Orton Development, Inc.

Mechanical Design/Build Contractor: Allied Heating & Air Conditioning Co.Inc

Electrical Design/Build Contractor: Helix Electric

Branding: Macchiatto Strategic Design


Carol Bentel, FAIA, Chair, Bentel & Bentel, Locust Valley, NY

Michelle Watanabe, AIA, Leo A Daly, Minneapolis, MN

John Harrison, FAIA, GreenSlate, Seattle, WA

Venesa Alicea, AIA, NOMA, New York, NY

Heather Rose-Dunning, IIDA, Yellow Dog Studio, Minneapolis, MN

Image credits

AIA Int Arch - Announcement Image 1

Billy Hustace

AIA Int Arch - Announcement Image 2

Billy Hustace

AIA Int Arch - Announcement Image 3

Billy Hustace

AIA Int Arch - Announcement Image 4

Billy Hustace

AIA Int Arch - Announcement Image 5

Billy Hustace