This project is a significant part of the historic Pier 70, within the Union Iron Works Historic District, which today is regarded as the best preserved 19th century industrial complex west of the Mississippi. Once home to Bethlehem Shipbuilding, the Uber Advanced Technology R&D Center extends the site’s legacy of transportation endeavors into the 21stC.
This project is housed in continuous historic industrial buildings (Building 113, 114, 115, 116), extending a length of two-blocks. The largest of these edifices is unreinforced masonry originally designed to be the ship yard’s machine-shop. The structures had been red-tagged for years and 113 was under the threat of collapse when the project team began construction. The project employs the building-within-a-building concept to preserve the historic perimeter brick walls, while reducing the cost of temporary shoring and retaining the open volume of the tall spaces within.
A major innovation is a strategy to design a seismic upgrade system that enhanced the architectural improvements. The dramatic volumes of the original structures are retained while the insertions of mezzanines, bridges and stairs not only create leasable space but act as internal diaphragms to resist lateral load. Conference rooms, private offices, and other “rooms” are enclosed beneath the new mezzanine, aiding in sound isolation and temperature control while retaining voluminous open social and shared space at the center. In addition to the physical elements of architecture, architectural lighting shaped the spaces, defined functions and highlighted emblematic industrial artifacts (such as the original yellow cranes).
The context of Pier 70 enhances the project's contribution to the community. This dockside area retains an industrial vibe with large warehouses, soon to be redeveloped into uses including housing. To the West, the Dogpatch Neighborhood, a once run-down area is now one of the most desirable locations for residential, retail, restaurant, art galleries, brew pubs, wine bars, the Museum of Craft and Design and indie shops. The contribution to the community and industry is immense in that it revitalizes a crumbling shipyard facility into a vibrant place for work, and public gatherings in a rejuvenated historic setting.