Fort Mason Center Gallery 308

Gallery as Restoration Beachhead

Fresh thinking imagines a plan for reusing a former military base as a cultural hub; and a gallery sets the bar for future development.

Master Plan

Given Fort Mason’s spectacular location and enviable Golden Gate Bridge views, it seems surprising that the 13-acre former military base would want for a regular flow of visitors. As part of an international design competition, Jensen Architects partnered with Rotterdam-based West 8 and architecture conservationists ARG. After evaluating the site the team proposed the winning plan for a vibrant cultural hub energized by new uses and deeper connections to its natural setting.

12. FMC Gallery 308 Image 12
9. FMC Gallery 308 Image 09

Reelin’ in the Years

Built for utilitarian purposes, Fort Mason’s existing structures tell the story of the site and its historic role in the region’s military defense. Keeping the buildings was a given in the master plan, but the years had taken their toll. One of the first spaces to be considered, the former machine shop, eyed as a space for arts programming, had been subdivided into smaller spaces and neglected. But JENSEN saw how to restore the original strength of the architecture, with a new purpose.

10. FMC Gallery 308 Image 07

Room with a View

JENSEN refashioned the space through a process of subtraction, taking out more than was put in. They removed wall additions and uncovered the windows, opening the entire space to surrounding bay views, and worked with the National Park Service to restore the original silver color of the ceiling. For lighting, JENSEN designed a flexible framing system that allows for direct or indirect lighting, as in a theater — the result plays off the natural light streaming in through the windows.

Fort Mason Gallery 308 Section
8. FMC Gallery 308 Image 03
6. FMC Gallery 308 Image 05
Fort Mason Gallery 308 Floor Plan R

Gallery as Destination

When Gallery 308 launched its arts programming in late 2015, hundreds of visitors flocked to Fort Mason each day to experience the installation by world-renowned sound artist Janet Cardiff, her “40 Part Motet.” The perfect backdrop to Cardiff’s spare composition of 40 speakers, each presenting a singular choral voice, the renewed architecture also provides an elegant setting for conferences, performances and weddings.

3. cardiff-fmc-3
1. cardiff-fmc-1-signature
Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture
San Francisco


Architects' Newspaper, “Turn Up The Base,” January 2016
SF Gate, “The Forty-Part Motet’: art for the ear at Fort Mason,” November 11, 2015


Project Leads
Mark Jensen
Steven Huegli
Project Team
Cassie McDonald


Charles Salter Associates


Oliver & Company


Johnna Arnold
Drew Altizer
Sign up for Newsletter