Piers 15/17 on the Embarcadero have allowed the Exploratorium to dream big. For the first time in over 50 years, a view corridor to the San Francisco Bay will open to the public. Between Piers 15 and 17, just off the Embarcadero, a parking lot is removed and transforms into a stunning civic space, with the newly revealed bay taking center stage. Pedestrian bridges across the newly exposed water enable the public to circumnavigate Pier 15. The project adds the Bay Observatory – the only new building on the site.
To be developed in two phases – starting with Pier 15 – this nine-acre campus will ultimately unite all of the Exploratorium’s educational activities under one roof. It starts with the immediate development of Pier 15, the future home of the Exploratorium. Pier 17 offers significant room for future expansion in future decades. The landscape and architecture will form a simple backdrop to the exhibits and activities, not a statement that competes with them.
- Supported by hundreds of pilings, Pier 15 is anchored to the Embarcadero and stretches more than 800 feet over the water.
- Three new clusters (buildings within buildings) will be added inside this historic pier shed, each respectful of the historic truss work and walls of the existing structure, and maintaining views down its spine.
- These clusters define four, wide-open gallery spaces extending to the full height of the open trusses.
- On the main level, the four wide-open galleries and the interior spaces within the clusters house exhibits, special programs and events for ticketed visitors.
- Each cluster’s second level provides space for staff, research-and-development activities, and visiting professionals.
- The visual effect of the interior is one of light and dark, open and enclosed, as one moves from west to east.
- A future site for selected outdoor exhibits and/or kinetic sculpture that interact with wind, water and sun, the public plaza provides seating along the edge of the exposed bay.
- Visitors can enter the Exploratorium either through its new, primary entrance on the public plaza or through the historic bulkhead entrance.
- The primary public entrance on the plaza is a series of glass doors, beyond which is a window wall providing views into some of the museum’s new galleries.
- Other features include a café with outdoor seating and a grating that exposes the sea wall, which separates the city from the bay.
- The new civic space will be free to the public and accessible at all times.
Accessed directly from the Embarcadero, the classic Bulkhead — portal and lobby — serves as the second of the museum’s two entrances.
- In keeping with the historic nature of the structure, the lobby is a free public area featuring a Bay History Walk to educate visitors about the history of Pier 15 and San Francisco’s maritime history.
- This entry offers a glimpse of the museum’s exhibit floor, which extends over 3 football fields to a distant view of the bay beyond.
- The Bulkhead’s two-story presence provides a more formal introduction to the Exploratorium, and immediate access to the new, 200+ seat, multi-purpose cabaret-style theater, the Exploratorium Store and the plaza-side café.
- From the Bulkhead, the public can also reach the Exploratorium’s Extended Learning and Outreach areas, a number of classrooms, and the Learning Commons — the Exploratorium’s resource library — all on the second floor.
Bay Observatory Building
The Bay Observatory building is the only completely new construction on the Piers, a smaller building replacing the non-historic one that once connected Piers 15 and 17 on their eastern end.
- On the first floor, this new, mostly glass two-story building houses a view-café, including outdoor seating on the East Apron for a compelling indoor or outdoor dining experience for museum visitors and the general public.
- On the second ?oor, the Bay Observatory provides for a new kind of learning – exhibits that complement the direct views of the urban and marine environments.
- The Bay Observatory Gallery spills over into the adjacent Bay Observatory Terrace, which also offers outdoor exhibits that engage with the environment, protected from the prevailing winds.
- The Bay Observatory Building also serves as a prime space for events, including evening rentals, to help support the Exploratorium.
The sunny South Apron runs along the south side of Pier 15, a wind-sheltered pedestrian promenade accessible to the public without a fee.
- A walk from the South Apron naturally takes strollers past the café inside the Bay Observatory Building.
- From the South Apron, the public looks through windows to see all the activity inside the Exploratorium.
- Outdoor exhibits engage visitors along this apron.
- Future plans call for a water taxi dock near the Embarcadero.
- Visitors can continue along to circumnavigate the entire Pier 15, through a series of connecting bridges.
The Outdoor Exploratorium is bordered by the Bay Observatory building at the east end, between Piers 15 and 17.
- The Outdoor Exploratorium is part of the ticketed area of the museum.
- This large outdoor space features Exploratorium exhibits that interact with the immediate environment.
- The Outdoor Exploratorium will be available for short-term exhibitions, hands-on activities, festivals, and other events.
The Long Bridge spans the middle of the exposed water between Piers 15 and 17.
- It allows the general public a view of all of the outdoor activities.
- Exhibits are planned on the bridge to invite observation and experimentation.
The Short Bridge connects the walkway near the Bay Observatory building on Pier 15 to Pier 17 at the east end of the site.
- This location will provide the general public with an unobstructed view of the Bay and Treasure Island, as well as a full view of all the Outdoor Exploratorium.
The core idea driving the design of Piers 15-17 is reuse and sustainability; the new Exploratorium will be environmentally conscious, inside and out.
- Integral to the design is a commitment to energy efficiency, including the goal of being a net-zero energy building.
- To offset as much energy as possible, the designers have taken full advantage of the Exploratorium’s site over the bay. Please see Sustainability Fact Sheet for more details.
If you’d like to include videos of construction of the new Pier 15 location, we have some videos on our YouTube channel:
- "Jitterbugging", or Pouring Concrete-http://youtu.be/sTQ5vkM7iTU
- Installing the Fries Bridge-http://youtu.be/l1fqhBMjZkE
Please see Sustainability Fact Sheet for more details.
See full press kit: Exploratorium Piers Construction Project, Sustainability Fact Sheet, and Facts of Interest, for additional information.