The Exploratorium is an interactive science museum that is moving from its current home of 40 years near the park-like Presidio to a prominent waterfront site in downtown San Francisco. The project involves the renovation of two decrepit piers, and the removal of a large parking lot/loading dock on pilings to provide net zero energy buildings (LEED Gold) and 2 acres of newly accessible public open space to accommodate large scale outdoor exhibits.
For ten years GLS has worked with the internationally acclaimed and locally treasured Exploratorium, San Francisco’s “Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception”. It was the first hands-on interactive science learning center founded in 1968, and has changed museum culture worldwide. GLS worked with EHDD Architects, first on plans for the renovation of their current home at the Palace of Fine Arts, then on many site feasibility studies related to the search for a new home, and currently on construction drawings for the relocation to Pier 15 and 17 on San Francisco’s rapidly changing Embarcadero waterfront. The GLS scope includes the partial removal and seismic strengthening of a 2 acre asphalt truck loading dock suspended over the bay on pilings; to accommodate regional environmental goals, a new public plaza and outdoor exhibit areas related to the observation of natural phenomena such as wind, fog and tides. GLS has worked with Page and Turnbull and EHDD to integrate the new museum, located in the historic Pier 15 warehouse, with the exterior public outdoor space and exhibits.
GLS has worked to provide the flexible container for an outdoor museum. Exhibit infrastructure has been integrally designed to create maximum opportunities for improvisation, change and adaptability. Utility trenches are provided in the paving throughout, so that water, power and data can be located freely. Custom steel light poles, rails, and concrete seating platforms are designed to be armatures for the running of power and data cable, hoses, mounting of exhibits, flexible lighting and signage; and exhibit anchors are provided at regular intervals in the paving of the exhibit area. A circular opening 16’ in diameter has been provided for experimentation and development of a tidally powered fountain, that will be a prototype for a no chemical/no power water feature. “Blow holes” are provided for sound installations and to demonstrate how wave action compresses air against the underside of the pier.
GLS has worked closely with the structural engineers in regard to the seismic upgrade. Where construction of outdoor space occurs on top of existing pilings, those pilings have been reinforced. Where deck has been removed to expose the water, pilings are cut off at the mud line so as not to disturb the bottom of the bay. Where Phase 2 work is anticipated, pilings are left exposed in place for future reinforcing. Roof water is captured and stored in two large cisterns encased in giant concrete ‘pile caps’ which are used for seismic strengthening. New steel plate seismic joints at bridges and paving are designed to accommodate 4’ of movement during an earthquake; and seismically acting, telescoping guardrails were invented by the GLS for the project.
Special docking accommodations have been made for the US Navy, as well as NOAA research vessels, which will become part of the annual Exploratorium exhibit program, and there are provisions for a future water taxi and floating docks, which will allow exhibit designers to creatively engage the water. The project is anticipated to be certified LEED Gold. Text provided by GLS Landscape | Architecture. Landscape Architect: GLS Landscape | Architecture Location: Embarcadero Waterfront, San Francisco, California, USA Architect: Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis – EHDD Client: Exploratorium Project Area: 2 acres Photographs: Courtesy of GLS