San Francisco Ferry Terminal Project
Lurching to the Finish Line
|The vision, about
to become the reality, of San Francisco’s gleaming new Ferry
Though thoroughly bedeviled by delays and
problems, the first phase of the dramatic new San Francisco Ferry
Terminal is set to open any day now in all its glory.
Fears of a BART strike had put workers
onto a fast track that would have had the new facility ready by the
first week of September in case tens of thousands of displaced commuters
turned to ferries. However, a settlement between BART and its workers
allowed a return to normal.
"Normal", in the case of
installing renowned architect Boris Dramov’s exciting vision for a
world-class ferry terminal, means non-stop problems, frustration and
delays. From the very start of this eight-year (and counting) project,
project managers have been harried by unreliable subcontractors and
vexing environmental concerns.
It has all served to wreak havoc on the
nerves of Port engineers, but they are the first to say that it will all
be worth the time and trouble once the beautiful new Terminal finally
opens. The existing ferry docks at the foot of Market Street are dingy,
creaky, makeshift affairs, an altogether uninviting mess, with poor
signage and an utter lack of protection from the elements.
|The lay of the
land for the project underway to create the new San Francisco
The new terminal will greatly improve both
the form and function of regional commuter ferry service and
long-suffering commuters are not the only ones who stand to benefit from
the coming improvements. San Francisco’s important tourism industry
also hopes that the handsome new facility will be attractive to Bay Area
residents wanting to use ferries to visit the City. The recent terrorist
attack, and linked projections of drops in tourism reaching 20% or more,
gives new importance to these hopes.
Bay Crossings recently asked Boris
Dramov, the architect of the new San Francisco Ferry Terminal to visit
with us and discuss the ideas that went into his design. Dramov has
designed waterfront projects all over the world, including the Harry
Bridges Ferry Plaza (in a design consistent with the new Ferry
Terminal). He recently led Roma’s team of designers in preparing the
winning submission to design our nation’s monument to Martin Luther
King, to be built on the mall in Washington, D.C. Nieret Mizushima,
Chief Port Engineer of the Port Of San Francisco, and the woman in
charge of the project, joined us.
"I wanted to establish the image of a
transit service that is convenient, but also invested with a sense of
style," Dramov explained as we walked onto a gangway leading to the
floating barge that makes up the business end of the terminal, where
passengers will actually board their ferries. A cantilevered white
canopy, a welcome sight indeed come the rainy season, was above us.
|The people that
brought you the new San Francisco Ferry Terminal: from left, Leo
Bragagnolo and Nimrat Bhattal, both of the Port of San
Francisco; Jim Brady of Moffat & Nichols, Nieret Mizushima,
Chief Port Engineer of the Port of San Francisco and project
major domo and architect Boris Dramov of the Roma Design Group
"I’m very pleased," Dramov
said, watching workers install railings and applying touch-up paint. Ms.
Mizushima seemed pleased to hear Dramov say so, and maybe even a bit
"In choosing the materials for the
Terminal, I sought to use the same vocabulary we used in the
Plaza", Dramov continued. "The effect is intended to speak to
the role this space has as a gathering place, counter-pointing the
modern and the traditional. You see it with the granite portals through
which passengers pass to enter the floats. The stainless steel on floats’
canopies recalls the new trolley stops on the Plaza."
We encountered a posse of engineers from
the Port and one of the contractors, who drew Dramov and Mizushima into
a huddle. When they emerged, we admired the new loading ramps that will
make it much faster for passengers to get on and off ferries.
"There are three ramps on each side.
They’re of improved design and all hydraulically powered,"
preened Chief Port Engineer Mizushima. "Altogether they’ll be
able to handle double the number of people of the existing setup on Pier
˝. On the dual door catamarans we’ll be able to have two ramps
working at once. And they’re safer for workers, too, who won’t be
having to risk their backs picking them up".
|The man and his
mission: architect Boris Dramov looks over his labor of love,
the new San Francisco Ferry Terminal
Dramov had wandered away, beaming up with
enthusiasm at a ganglion of wires emerging from the ceiling of the
canopy. "These are for the lighting. When lit up at night, it’s
going to look like a jewel in a beautiful setting".
It was time for Dramov to leave for
another appointment, and Mizushima, glancing anxiously at her constantly
vibrating pager, signaled that she needed to go, too. We walked off the
float and handed in our hard hats. Dramov walked a few hundred feet
towards Market Street, stopped for one last look at his labor of love,
smiled, turned, and went on.