Exploratorium courtyard and public on a sunny day on the Embarcadero

The Exploratorium

New Home for Beloved Museum


The Exploratorium


San Francisco, United States

Year Completed


Floor Area

230,000 SF

Project Value

US $205M


EHDDPage & Turnbull


Nibbi Brothers


Wilson Meany

Sustainable Benchmarks

Net Zero Energy, LEED Platinum


AIA COTE Top Ten Award,
SF Business Times Deal of the Year

Holmes Fire

Bevan Jones, Brian Salyers

San Francisco’s  Exploratorium relocated to Piers 15 & 17 on the Embarcadero. The existing Pier 15 building is a historic structure and required substantial renovation to support exhibit space, a 250-seat theater (Kanbar Forum) and office facilities. The site constraints of the pier coupled with interactive exhibits created some unique design challenges: for example, the existing 840-foot pier required innovative problem-solving for egress, smoke containment, and fire fighting solutions.

Holmes Fire developed a Performance-Based Engineering (PBE) design to meet the goals of a free-flowing open space, and to facilitate an interactive visitor experience. The solution for minimal internal fire separation of the building floor area achieves greater functionality and safety. The analysis demonstrated that building occupants are able to evacuate the building and the pier. The alternative design permitted the building to function as a single large open compartment with a fire protection strategy tailor-made for the use and occupancy of the building.

Holmes Structures provided the structural peer review of the pier’s seismic upgrade.

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