San Francisco Pier 1900 - 2100
The sunken and sinking pier

Instructor: Mark Anderson
Independent Project
University of California, Berkeley
M.Arch Fall 2017

San Francisco Pier is a sunken and sinking Pier. Sunken metaphorically because culturally and historically, we have lost one of the busiest port in the world. That sense of identity it gave to the ferry building. With the introduction of the bay bridge, the significance of ferry building being the point of arrival and departure diminishes and now normalized into commercial usage. Sinking physically because rising sea level is going to engulf close to 1 kilometers of land into the pier in 100 years time. San Francisco pier’s identity morphed tremendously throughout the past few decades and will continue to change in years to come. 
The project seeks to pursue a new typology that addresses these two conditions as an effort to make San Francisco city a continuous city culturally and physically. As a reminder of what has been the image of San Francisco Pier, the architectural mass floats and sinks according to sea level tidal changes, creating a visual ephemerality of ships docking and un-docking at the port. Spatial function dictated by the variability of tidal changes provokes a way of rethinking how we can co-inhabit with water in near future. Programmatically, this intervention incorporates a maritime aquarium museum. The nature of the museum resurfaced traces of the past to project possibilities into the future. 
By transiting between wet, semi-wet and dry zones, one could begin to assimilate and adapt to the constant changing atmosphere around the pier. This is the new agenda for the pier as an effort to a continuous city culturally and physically. 
1849’s Gold Rush
San Francisco was the busiest and most important port in the West Coast during the Gold Rush period in the 1850s. In 1898, Ferry Building was erected on the pier. It became the icon of the port with its Beaux Arts tower and rhythmic arcades, serving as a gateway to the world. With the introduction of the Bay Bridge in 1933, the port’s importance decreased exponentially as goods transportation found a more efficient means. Since then, Ferry buildings and other piers have re-purposed to offices, commercial and public usage. 

​​​​​​​1. Ferry Building 2. Old docks once attached to Ferry Building 3. Pier 1 4. Market Street

Urban Tectonics Continuity
(Embarcadero Center urban studies)
The visual ephemerality of ships docking and un-docking along the pier is contested in the very first conceptual provocation as to what architectural insertion is appropriate to the pier. What techniques can we extrapolate from the site to allow the new insertion to serve as a reminder to the past? Apparent along the piers are the structural piles, drilled deep into the seabed. Upon demolition of some piers, a number of these piles were left unattended, allowing tidal changes to reveal and conceal certain parts of the structure throughout the day. In a way, there’s a certain poetics that is inhabited along the San Francisco pier itself unnoticed . 

The average tidal height is roughly 838mm with miniumum at -487mm and the peak at 1828mm. (recorded in year 2017) By setting the mean tidal height as transition zone to allow sea water to infiltrate the space, the internal space transits from dry zone (between -487mm to 838mm) to wet zone from 838mm to 1828mm, and vice-versa. Radically, this architectural insertion seeks to programatically challenge the conventional museum opening hours with incorporation of tidal changes. Throughout the year, opening hours varies according to tidal behavior (chart to the right), augmenting public’s awareness to tidal changes along San Francisco coast. 

Adaptive Buoyancy Tank concept

Site Axon

Part Section B-B

water level @ 1333mm

Inside augmented buoyancy tank (aquarium museum) when sea water infiltrates the vessel

Peripheral corridors

water level between 1333mm & 1828mm
(transition zone 2 & highest tide)

Basement 3 (small exhibits level)

water level below 838mm

Section C-C

Buoyancy Tank Dynamics
Part Section A-A

water level @ 838mm

part model of the museum vessel structure

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