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Pier 15 Facts of Interest

Pier 15 Facts of Interest

Basic Facts – Pier 15

  • Opens Spring 2013
  • 330,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor space
  • Triples the exhibition space
  • Doubles the number of classrooms
  • Triples the capacity for teacher development
  • Quadruples meeting space
  • There are 1700 piles under Pier 15.
  • Approximately 70 new steel pilings will be added, 30 of which are giant.
  • Pier 15 was first built in 1915 and rebuilt in 1931.

Pier 17

  • Built in 1912, Pier 17 is the third-oldest pier on the San Francisco waterfront.
  • Pier 17, at approximately 110,000 square feet in footprint, provides 2.5 acres for future expansion.
  • Pier 17 has the last remaining original fog horn.

The Pier 15 / 17 campus 

  • The total Pier 15/17 campus covers nine acres of waterfront.
  • Raw space is almost five times larger than the Exploratorium’s current home at the Palace of Fine Arts.
  • It is the length of one New York City block.
  • The Exploratorium project will add 1.5 acres of publicly accessible open space to the waterfront.
  • Over 8,000 square feet of income-generating space — a bayside and plaza-side café, as well as a publicly accessible Exploratorium store – will benefit the nonprofit museum.

Educational Impact

  • Being at the hub of public transit increases Exploratorium accessibility and educational impact on teachers, kids and the community.
  • Teacher capacity almost triples for regional and national teacher professional development programs — like the Teacher Institute.
  • Classroom space doubles.
  • A multi-purpose, 200-seat theater provides space for lectures, conferences, performances.
  • Partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the first of many strategic partnerships, brings climate and ocean sciences to Exploratorium audiences in a new way.


  • Rehabilitation is in compliance with the Secretary of Interior’s standards for historic buildings.
  • The deck between Piers 15 and 17 is being demolished from east to west.
  • Four to six barges 60 to 100 feet-long engaged in the construction effort.
  • Is on time and on budget.

Project Team

Wilson Meany Sullivan (WMS)

Nibbi Brothers General Contractors

KPM Consulting

Economic and Fiscal Impacts 

  • 900 jobs from construction over two years (direct, indirect, induced) – SF/ABAG Region

    • $300M short term economic impact from construction – SF/ABAG Region
    • $28M annual increase in permanent long-term economic impact to SF/CA
    • $1.4M net new total tax revenues to SF/CA



  • San Francisco’s piers have served as centers of trade, transport and military logistics.
  • Previous tenants included various shipping groups, steamship & navigation companies, tug & tow operators, industrial & office users, & a restaurant.
  • During WWII, the piers were operated by the San Francisco Port of Embarkation (SFPE) for troops returning from the war.
  • The SPFE was the principal U.S. Army operational center for the movement of supplies and soldiers to the Pacific theater during World War II.
  • In 1955-56, Piers 15 and 17 were joined by a connecting wharf and adapted for the operation of trucking lines in addition to the Belt Railroad. (Exploratorium Pier 15 + 17 Reader, GLS Landscape Architecture, 11-24-04)
  • Ghost graphic signs from Pier 15’s maritime history, uncovered in the construction, have been preserved in place on the eastern façade of Pier 15 – a portal to a bygone era.


  • There will be 35 types of glass.
  • Planned number of carpet colors is 13.
  • Planned number of paint colors is 41.
  • Over six miles of dowels will connect the pier deck to the new concrete slab.
  • Approximately 100 miles of rebar is being used in the construction.

See full press kit: Exploratorium Piers Construction Project and Sustainability Fact Sheet for additional information.

About the Exploratorium

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The Exploratorium is a portal to the astonishing scientific phenomena that animate our world and shape our actions. We create extraordinary learning experiences that ignite curiosity, upend perceptions, and inspire brave leaps forward. Since 1969, the Exploratorium’s museum in San Francisco has been home to a renowned collection of exhibits that draw together science, art, and human perception, and that have changed the way science is taught. Our award-winning programs provide a forum for the public to engage with artists, scientists, policymakers, educators, and tinkerers to explore the world around them. We celebrate diversity of thought, inspired investigation, and collaboration across all boundaries.

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