Timber Takeover

Hacker Architects reveals the U.S.'s next largest mass timber office building, in San Francisco

Slated for San Francisco's historic Pier 70, an office structure by Hacker Architects will boast the title of largest mass timber building in the United States once complete. (Courtesy Brookfield Properties and Design Distill)

San Francisco is readying itself to house the largest mass timber office building in the United States as part of a 28-acre development on its historic Pier 70. Spearheaded by Brookfield Properties, the six-story, 310,000-square-foot structure will be among the first new buildings, completed over a 10- to- 15-year timeline, to anchor the city’s newest waterfront destination. 

Designed by Hacker Architects, the 85-foot-tall office building will feature cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor slabs, glulam columns and beams, steel lateral seismic framing, and metal cladding. The Portland-based studio, with its extensive experience in designing wood-heavy projects, is helping Brookfield bring Pier 70 into the 21st century of eco-friendly architecture. 

“The Pier 70 office building will make a statement about how mass timber technologies are pushing design and construction towards environmentally sustainable design solutions that better connect the workplace to the natural environment,” said Hacker principal Corey Martin in a statement. 

Rendering of interior office lounge with all-wood construction and double height windows looking out to Pier 70

Exposed structural timber will be the focal point of the interior. (Courtesy Brookfield Properties and Design Distill)

Located along the city’s southern waterfront in the neighborhood of Potrero Point, Pier 70 was once bustling with industrial innovation, serving as home to several steel and ironworks companies, a shipbuilding group, and a small boat builder over its 100-year history. The area was slated for redevelopment over five years ago, and the core historic structures that have long sat on the pier were recently rehabilitated. Last year, Brookfield started work to clean up the site and prep for new construction, hiring Hacker first to envision the timber office space.

Rendering of open office plan with wood ceiling

Tenants will have views of the surrounding pier, downtown San Francisco, and the Bay. (Courtesy Brookfield Properties and Design Distill)

One of the integral parts of its design, according to Hacker, will be the structure’s airy interior. By mixing up the ceiling heights, adding windows ranging from 14- to 28-feet high, and using 27-inch exposed wood beams, tenants will have access to ample sunlight and feel the warmth of the all-wood construction throughout the day. 

The exterior of the project is meant to be much darker in tone than what’s found on the inside and will feature metal paneling that mimics raw weathering steel in reference to Pier 70’s shipbuilding past. Hacker will chamfer the panels and arrange them in alternating directions on each floor, allowing light to reflect off of them in various ways and create a sense of movement across the facade. Above the lobby level, the architecture will cantilever slightly at the corners, adding further motion to the space while living green walls will add to the sense of connection with nature.

Exterior night rendering of lit-up office building

The dark exterior cladding will stand in intentionally stark contrast to the warm and light interior. (Courtesy Brookfield Properties and Design Distill)

So far, the office structure is the only project on the Pier 70 site that’s been publicly projected to include mass timber. Little is known about the other upcoming buildings, except that Hacker and Brookfield will again partner to build it out and that sustainable construction is a top priority.

Our decision to use mass timber is inspired by the neighborhood’s culture of creativity, sustainability, and strong opinions,” said Cutter MacLeod, the senior manager of development at Brookfield Properties. “By applying emerging technologies and innovative designs to the structures we’re building here, we are reinforcing that Pier 70 will be a thriving place for creative industries in San Francisco.”

Over 2,000 residential units (including affordable housing) and 1.75-million-square-feet of commercial space will be built out in the $3.5 billion megaproject, along with nine acres of parks, playgrounds, and public space. Up to 90,000 square feet is slated to house arts-related nonprofits, while 60,000 square feet of the site will be used for local production and small-scale manufacturing. 

Aerial rendering of parkland and buildings on pier

Aerial view of the potential Pier 70 site (Courtesy Brookfield Properties and Design Distill)

San Francisco as a whole seems to be headed toward integrating more all-wood buildings. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that 1 De Haro, by Perkins + Will and Pfau Long Architecture and set to open in 2020, will be the city’s first mass timber project. At the nearby California College of the Arts, Studio Gang is designing a trio of CLT pavilions as well.

Design approvals for the Pier 70 timber office building are currently underway. Construction is expected to start this spring and phase 1 of the entire site is expected to open in 2022. 

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