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Design Competition Brief

Prior to its incarnation as an arts and cultural center, Fort Mason had a rich history as a key point of deployment for US Military supplies and personnel.  Built in 1912 for these industrial uses, the buildings of lower Fort Mason are commanding structures that dominate the landscape and dictate circulation patterns.

While Fort Mason Center has been successful in offering programming and events that are diverse and engaging, the campus lacks a clear identity and cohesion that often prevents visitors from understanding the variety of uses on the site.  In addition, the campus includes spaces and amenities that have not been fully utilized to further Fort Mason Center’s mission, notably the vacant Pier One and the campus’s public realm, with a 437-space parking lot and an advantageous location on the bay.  The goals of the design competition are to inject cohesion, focus, and renewed energy into the campus by making better use of these areas to enhance Fort Mason Center’s profile as an arts and cultural destination.

The three finalists will be asked to respond to the specific design elements outlined below; however respondents may include other ideas and concepts in their proposal.

  • Design concepts for Pier One, a two-story 46,000 square foot pier that is currently utilized as a storage and maintenance shed.  The building has remarkable views of the bay, Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge with a pier apron on the east and north sides.  Proposals for Pier One should incorporate Fort Mason Center’s need to be financially self-sufficient.
  • Improvements to the public realm to further Fort Mason Center’s mission and to provide enhanced public space for gathering and enjoyment of the setting.
  • Improved connections to, and viewing of, San Francisco Bay.   Fort Mason Center has over 3,500 linear feet of waterfront space along its three piers and parking lot which are underutilized by the public and visitors to the campus.
  • Improved connections to the city and adjacent areas of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  With concrete gates and retaining walls, the campus was designed by the military to be separate from the adjacent city.  Fort Mason Center strives to create a more welcoming site that attracts casual visitors.
  • Improvements to the Fort Mason Center roadway system and parking lot to enhance wayfinding and circulation.
  • Continued re-use and development of the Fort Mason Center campus consistent with the site’s National Historic Landmark status.  The military and maritime aesthetic and the urban industrial feeling should be enhanced, while creating a plan that appreciates the context of the site.
  • Allowance for phasing due to possible incremental funding sources.  

Design concepts will be judged by the competition jury based on the following criteria:

  • Quality of Design
  • Originality of Thinking
  • Cultural/Contextual Response
  • Strength of Campus Integration
  • Sustainable Concepts 


Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA)

Fort Mason Center is a successful, nonprofit partner of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), one of the largest and most popular urban national parks in the world.  The GGNRA was established in 1972 as part of a movement to make national parks more accessible and bring “parks to the people.” The park’s 75,500 acres of land and water extend north across the Golden Gate Bridge to Tomales Bay in Marin County and south to San Mateo County.

The park contains many historical and cultural sites in addition to Fort Mason Center, among them Alcatraz, Muir Woods National Monument, Crissy Field, and the Presidio of San Francisco.  Fort Mason Center and the GGNRA have worked collaboratively throughout Fort Mason Center’s 35-year history to activate and maintain this historic site.