By Jeremy Joven


The 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco was a colorful historical celebration of the connectedness brought at the time by two of the world’s longest bridges. This two-year spectacle showed sprawling gardens and dazzling light shows unseen before their time, paired with the most advanced technologies and marveled upon by thousands of people. It was a plan so big, they decided to build an island for the occasion… the island we know today as Treasure Island.

Almost 75 years later, the island is once again the center of attention as it goes through an ambitious redevelopment project that has been in the works for almost a decade. San Francisco’s nearly 1-square-mile island is ready to wow the world again with one of the most ingenious, innovative land-repurposing plans ever done.

To fully grasp the innovation of this plan, we connected with world-class designers at Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill LLP to learn more about their vision.

SOM team leader Craig Hartman recognized the huge opportunity to demonstrate advanced principles of the design sustainability that befits San Francisco’s lifestyle. Together with his team, they plan to create a new kind of pedestrian-friendly, transit-based neighborhood with a well-balanced, dense neighborhood: massive open green spaces all around a mixed-use development.

The plan includes one commercial district and four residential neighborhoods, which would enable 10,000 to 12,000 residents to live in this new utopia. Housing is designed at a density as high as 100 units per acre, enough to support ferry service while allowing the majority of the island’s land to be dedicated to a number of open spaces of mixed purposes, like wetlands capable of filtering the islands’ gray water, biking and hiking trails, and a demonstration site for organic gardening.

The plan was approved by the city Planning Department two years ago and is now in search of funding to kick-start the future of San Francisco that we all hope will be a model of sustainability and diversity for the rest of the country, if not the world.

The architectural plans of the future Treasure Island also drew inspiration from the 1939 Exposition’s “streamline modern” themes. They feature two-story walkups to 40-story high-rise apartments and include different housing options for apartments, condos, and individual houses of varying price points, with 25 percent of the new housing designated as below market rate. Technology ties the plan together, with a proposed aerodynamically vented glass canopy to shelter the ferry terminal from the elements. The canopy would shield pedestrians from rain, while during hot days, it would channel air through an urban space. The design could become a new landmark that is as “San Francisco” as the iconic spots around it.

As the project begins, current residents will be able to stay on the island in the new buildings as they are built with the same rental rates they currently have—a fair plan to keep the area serving the populace it already has while inviting new ones.

There’s a lot of promise and optimism wrapped around this ambitious project, a task the city and the developers are excited to tackle. Soon, it will be up to us to put the new ideas to the test as we prepare the next generation for a sustainable future with a great view to behold.

Pictured Above, the skyline of Future Treasure Island. A Majority of the land will be green spaces with the buildings facing the beautiful coastline of San Francisco.

Pictured left: Renderings of Clipper Cove Promenade. Aerial View of current Treasure Island

Images provided by SOM and Treasure Island Development Authority.

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This article was published in:
Idea Issue - Released March 2013
Issue 2 / Version 3 | Buy print copy here
Issue 11
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