Wednesday, April 16, 2014
New documents submitted to the Port of San Francisco offer a glimpse of what Google’s floating mystery structure will look like when completed and tied up on the city’s waterfront, and the image is a far cry from the rectangular industrial-looking things moored in San Francisco Harbor and Portland Harbor.
An artistic rendering of the By and Large Studio moored in San Francisco Bay.
Courtesy of Port of San Francisco
When completed, the structure in San Francisco will sport about a dozen gigantic sails “reminiscent of fish fins,” as well as catwalks, an atrium and roof deck, according to documents submitted to the port.
No similar information has emerged about the floating structure in Portland Harbor, which is not as far along in construction and is not expected to stay in Portland after it’s built.
Both structures sit on 250-foot-long barges, and both are made from recycled shipping containers bolted together – four containers long, four containers high and four containers wide.
The San Francisco barge will be berthed on that city’s waterfront when it is completed, and Google submitted some details as part of the permitting process there. The documents submitted by By and Large LLC refer to the vessel as a “studio” and “temporary technology exhibit space.” It says its goal is to “drive visitation to the waterfront.”
The structure will have 13,726 square feet of exhibition space. The exterior is 140 feet long, 40 feet wide and 50 feet high.
The barge in Portland is also owned by By and Large, which is affiliated with Google.
Portland’s barge is moored at Rickers Wharf Marine Facility, where Cianbro Corp. is scheduled to do a significant amount of interior work on it.
The barge was assembled in New London, Conn. Documents obtained from the Coast Guard there indicate the completed barge will leave Portland and visit New York Harbor and other cities on the East Coast.
Google has been secretive about its barges.
Its desire to shield its intent from the public is evident in documents obtained from San Francisco on Friday, including an email exchange on July 9 between Barbara Schussman, a land-use attorney representing By and Large, and Jeff Bauer, leasing manager for the Port of San Francisco.
In an email, Schussman asks Bauer to change the subject line describing a scheduled meeting from “discuss Google project” to “discuss barge project.”
The company has declined to answer questions from the Portland Press Herald about the Portland barge. On Friday, responding to questions from the Press Herald, the company issued the same statement it had given Wednesday:
“Google Barge ... A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above. Although it’s still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”
The California barge’s backers expect it to draw 1,000 visitors a day as it sails from spot to spot around San Francisco Bay, according to documents provided by the Port of San Francisco to the Press Herald.
Eventually, the barge would sail off to San Diego and other West Coast ports, according to the documents. As for the sails, By and Large said they will remind people they’re on a boat and also “provide shade and shelter to guests.” They would be lowered in bad weather. One artist’s rendering submitted to the port appears to show the sails lit up at night.
“We believe this curious and visually stunning structure will be a welcome addition to the waterfront, an experience unlike any other,” said a preliminary proposal that By and Large submitted to San Francisco officials in September.
“The artistic structure combines innovative architecture with a bit of nautical whimsy,” the proposal says, “creating a surprising environment that inspires conversation, community and ‘a-ha’ moments.”
After the Portland structure was assembled in New London, it was hauled by a tugboat into Portland Harbor on Oct. 10.
As of Friday afternoon, little if any work had been done on the structure. Also, By and Large had not submitted any documents with the city of Portland Planning Department.
Cianbo is allowed to work on the vessel without city permission because it is berthed at a approved marine construction facility, but By and Large would need city approval to allow the public to board it.
Coast Guard officials in Portland said Friday they have information about the vessel but would not disclose it. Peter Vigue, chief executive officer of the Cianbro Corp., also declined to talk about the project Friday.
It appears that Google towed the barge to Portland because Cianbro has a waterfront facility here, and the barge will be towed out of the harbor once the project is finished. Documents obtained from the Coast Guard in Connecticut reveal a plan to operate the vessel in various ports, with the first being New York Harbor.
Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: