The preliminary design for the proposed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, should it land on the western shore of San Francisco’s Treasure Island, has been unveiled.

But at the same time, architect Ma Yansong, founder of MAD Architects, has drafted a variation of the flowing design for a competing site in Los Angeles, near the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park, as well.

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art Rendering: Exposition Park

With Lucas having already been spurned in San Francisco, and then burned in Chicago, the release of the dueling renderings is likely intended to gauge the local support and opposition to both locations prior to a site announcement being made.

Keep in mind that while the redevelopment of Treasure Island is underway with a certified Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in hand, and that the approved plans “allow for [the] construction of either a museum or community facilities on Treasure Island,” the magnitude of Lucas’ proposed project, in terms of the expected traffic it would generate, could easily cast doubts on the adequacy of the approved EIR should a challenge be mounted.

In addition to being near a light-rail stop on the LA Metro’s Expo Line, the design for the Exposition Park site includes a subterranean garage for 1,800 cars.  The Treasure Island site is near the island’s future ferry terminal.

73 thoughts on “Dueling MAD Designs for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art”
  1. Treasure island is going to be a traffic nightmare. It will leave commuters feeling nostalgic for the current rush-hour delays on the bridge.

    1. Well, it’s next to the ferry, so you just need to park near the ferry building, it is so much less busy than treasure island, and of course much cheaper to park all day there, and then you just pay a nominal fee for the boat ride per person, assuming no inclement weather when everyone will get seasick. It’ll be great!

      Seriously, they should just build a tramway rather than a ferry, it’d be cooler and could move everyone quicker than a ferry, not just the museum visitors but regular commuters once the island fills with 30k ppl.

      1. Do you have any idea what a “tramway” would cost? It would have to clear the shipping channels (basically, everywhere under the western span of the Bay Bridge) at at least the same elevation as the bridge itself. The climb rate out of both the city and island side would be incredibly steep, and the cost of the towers, sunk into bedrock, would be prohibitive. That’s why no one has proposed it.

          1. They have been spending tons of time and money investigating whether they can even hang a bike lane off of the side of the western span, or whether the weight will be too much to bear. No way it supports a tramway or anything like it.

          2. I would think the posts and cabling necessary to dangle a tramway car would be quite a bit lighter than a ten- or fifteen-foot extension made of concrete envisioned for bikes/peds. As for the tramway cars, they need not be that much heavier than an 18-wheeler or a bus.

          3. Also, they wouldn’t have to build off the bridge deck (like a pedestrian/bike extension would). They could cantilever off the sides of the existing anchorages and towers — it’s hard to imagine the anchorages and towers couldn’t take the weight. The longest span is 2310′, way shorter than modern aerial trams manage.

  2. I just don’t understand how that many people would get in and out of treasure island. Has the city thought about this? For ferries to work, you would need several an hour during rush hour.

    1. Currently water taxis can fit up to 64 people per trip. In addition to the future public ferries, frequent public shuttles busses are planned. Anyone with a boat can get there. Someday a bike route will get there from SF. Oakland cyclists can ride there now.

      1. Right. Because so many folks own boats in the Bay Area.

        When you’re adding housing/commercial density to a small island with a single two-lane road to a jam packed bridge you really should invest in more substantial transit options.

    2. Lets just assume that they’ll add no additional ferry service when they build a $100m+ museum on an island. Good thinking.

    3. I hope they have to rely on ferry service.

      Between the need to shuttle 8000 people who will eventually live and work on Treasure Island plus the thousands of daily tourists, it might actually encourage the city or another upstart ferry company to allocate resources to improved service. More demand, more terminals, more frequency. I think it would benefit the entire bay area and help gently offset bridge and tube traffic—even if just slighty.

      1. Ferry service of sufficient capacity is the only way to go. Unless you live in a luxury tower downtown, these residents will have the quickest, cheapest, most stressfree commute to SF in the Bay Area.

  3. There was talk at one time to either bar vehicles on TI or institute a toll to get on the island. It was also reported that if Lucas builds on TI, the Ferry proposal will be moved forward and open with the museum. I could imagine a package deal where you get a ferry ticket along with admission to the museum.

  4. My recollection is that the plan is for SF-TI ferries to run in both directions every 10 minutes. Distance is relatively short, so this seems practicable. Of course, much depends on ferry capacity and reliability. Ferries will also have to run to/from the East Bay. I don’t know what the current thinking is regarding that route.

    1. Agreed, anything much less than that seems unworkable. But if the museums’s crowd is mostly tourists anyway, I think the ferry option would be preferable to driving (since many tourists don’t have cars with them).

      1. Indeed, museum visitor traffic seems perfectly complementary with resident traffic: residents largely commute out at rush hour, while visitors come in, and then visitors fill up boats more evenly throughout the day, along with some residents. This sort of balance is great for a transit network, instead of having to fund a huge capacity that only gets used at rush hour, and then sits idle for the rest of the day. Much more cost-effective.

    2. Unfortunately, during the rainy weather this week several ferry runs were cancelled due to heavy winds on the bay. So there goes the best thing to do on a rainy day – go to a museum.

    3. 1.3 Million people visit Alcatraz every year and the only access is by ferry. Dedicated ferries for access to TI could easily handle the tourist traffic.

  5. The museum content seems to align better with USC and LA than the Bay Area, IMO. Otherwise, while the water front site on TI is visually striking, the building totally blocks the housing on the eastern edge of the island and ruins the promenade that was proposed. Why the Job Corp site was left as a doughnut hole in the TI plan baffles me. Why not deposit a museum there and re-orient that site to work better with the new stuff developed around it, making better use of island space over all, etc.

    1. I think the content would be very interesting to video game designers, not to mention that LucasArts and ILM are here.

      1. Plus if they went with this same design, the 120′ max height (reported elsewhere) would raise the same it-blocks-the-views arguments that damned the Warriors arena.

      2. Pier 30-32 is a far better location. The pier needs to be rebuilt anyway and if anyone can afford it, Lucas can. The size of the pier is huge, over 6 acres, so heights could easily be kept consistent with other piers at around 45′.

        As for making a bike lane on the west section of the bay bridge, LOL! That will never happen until that span is replaced. Current estimates of adding the bike lane range from $300MM to $500MM – and we know these estimates are always low. If we are generous and say $300MM and 10k riders a day, the cost is $30,000 per rider.

      3. I’ll stand by my prediction that more than likely the pier will be torn out by the Army Corp of Engineers – paid for by all of us.

        Outside of that, I’d sell in on the cheap to Uber with the restrictions they repair it before using it for helio services. Either that, or a parking lot – until cars start to fall into the bay, and then see my first sentence above.

        1. This conversation actually prompted me to recently go out onto them for the first time. What an amazing spot! The view up and down the Bay, the look back to the City skyline, the soaring, audacious Bay Bridge. And the expanse is huge. The potential for park/recreational uses seems unlimited. It would be a shame to lose such an asset or even to continue squandering it as a parking lot.

          1. Asset absolutely. It’s just a matter of doing the necessary repairs which will undoubtedly be expensive but worth it. It could easily be achieved with some creative thinking eschewing the usual ideological strictures.

            Think: high end exploitation of the remarkable property across the Embarcadero.

          2. “The remarkable property across the Embarcadero” is San Francisco Bay. The rotting conjoined pair of piers is the “exploitation” of our past and navigation hazard of our future.

            Many before have amazed at the potential to cash in on this rare claim on the surface of the Bay waters. In just my paltry 20+ years living not much more than a hop skip and a 21st century sea rise away, there have been quite the parade of creative thinkers with more than enough assets to squander on the necessary despairs, including cruiseship/shoppingmall developers, a multi-billionare toy boat enthusiast, and most recently a shoe marketing company featuring scantily clad tall men.

            Sadly, they have each seperately and all totally concluded they would eschew this worthy amazing opportunity to squander their assests.

            The view from the piers invites creative thinking. The view of the financials invites creative destruction.

            As they sage wrote:
            “the profit in what is
            is in the use of what isn’t.”
            from Tao Te Ching: Chapter 11; translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

          3. No, as should be clear, it was the piers I was visiting. The “remarkable property” across the Embarcadero (from the piers) is the Port’s seawall lot. It could easily generate enough revenue to refurbish the piers for a reasonable public recreational/parkland use which is substantially less than putting structures (arena, cruise ship terminal, etc ) on them.

            The thinking which must be eschewed is anything along the lines of “precious” navigable bay waters (as in the few acres vs the hundreds of square miles the piers represent) or “no wall on the waterfront” so that the necessary revenue to fund and utilize these assets and promises can be realized.

          4. What is clear is that you don’t understand the economics that are shaping the outcome of Pier 30-32. Seawall Lot 330 was last appraised at $30 million. That was the price offered to the Warriors.

            SF has evaluated many options for Piers 30-32 (SS story linked to in my post above), and the only options Seawall Lot 330 could fund would be the demolition of the Piers or their stabilization not including seismic reinforcement. That’s right, SF could sell off Seawall Lot 330, use all the money to fix the rot but leave Pier 30-32 vulnerable to “suffer serious damage during a moderate to major seismic event.” Oh, and Pier 30-32 is “expected to suffer frequent flooding” in ~50 years. That’s reality. Quotes from SF Port Engineering.

            Previously on SS you have posted this nonsense idea that Seawall Lot 330 could pay for your precious Pier 30-32 refurb. It can’t, never could, and never will.

            But, thanks for finally visiting Piers 30-32 after having commented on them so many times. Heck of a view. Renown for making heads spin and fill with fantasies. Now try visiting their economic realities. And should you finally succumb to these realities, please remember, no wailing on the waterfront.

  6. Museum location aside, what galls me most is the amount of subways and rapid transit LA has build in the last 20 years as opposed to the silly Central Subway project that has taken 25 years to build and is still not ready…
    SF at it’s finest

    1. Agreed – we need more rail built faster – but isn’t LA’s system almost all above ground / elevated? I think that could actually work for places in SF, like Geary, and it’s usually much cheaper/quicker to build than a below-ground system.

    2. A municipality with a population of nearly 10x our own, mixed with a gamut of differences in zoning and geography surely define the difference between SF and LA well enough to understand why.

      1. LA’s bigger, but not ten times bigger. LA city-proper has 5x the population of SF city-proper, and the greater LA area has around 2.5x the population of the Bay Area.

  7. Yes, I understand the traffic concerns and the problems it may create, but wow…..the Treasure Island concept is fantastic! Aesthetically, it is a beautifully designed structure that is bold and sophisticated. It is really fantastic 21st century architecture. I would hate to see this project go to Los Angeles. As the cultural center for the Bay Area, this would be a stunning centerpiece to share between San Francisco and Oakland.

  8. Very cool looking building – but reading the EIR – the City’s plan for dealing with sea level rise is a completely inadequate joke – so hopefully they do not put anything valuable on the first floor.

  9. I’m loving it! Like others have said, it would be great to integrate a museum ticket with a round trip ferry ride. C’mon SF don’t look this gift horse in the mouth. Beat LA! Beat LA! Build it here!!

  10. It would be nice if muni extended the market street tunnel under the bay, to treasure island. Run the M and/or or L line out there, and add extra trains.

      1. Are you suggesting a station on the existing BART tube? Rather than straightforward, that would be impractical, not to mention the financially prohibitive. The tube lies about a mile south of Treasure Island on the bay floor at a depth of about 100 feet. How would passengers access the station?

  11. Hate this! The museum belongs on the Southern Embarcadero at the seawall lot across from Piers 30-32 with the new Whitney as the model for a modern urban museum and Lucas to refurbish the piers for park – recreational use as part of the deal.

    Absent that, ship it to LA!

    1. Need it be said that the ghostly structure in the rendering is not part of the design but already a part of the Lennar proposal? Though, if it was located on the Embarcadero with a Whitney -like design, there would be ample room for a modest (say, 18 stories) luxury residential or hotel tower to help pay for the thing. Combine that with preserving/repurposing the piers and the whole package beats the hell out of this goofy idea.

  12. It’s lots of fun to debate the design of the building and the transportation issue and other possible SF locations blah blah blah, but it’s never going to happen. Lucas will, again, get sick of dealing with San Francisco and he’ll build the museum will be built in L.A. End of story.

  13. This proposal could truly be a jewel in the crown of San Francisco. I think that the Central Subway should hang a right at Broadway and head over to TI instead of going out Columbus to North Beach and beyond.

    1. “I think that the Central Subway should hang a right at Broadway and head over to TI instead of going out Columbus to North Beach and beyond.”

      It should go to both!

    2. T.I. is further north than you might think – it’s pretty much due east of Fisherman’s Wharf, so the Central Subway line could go to F. Wharf *and then* to Treasure Island.

      The really interesting thing (and making it worthwhile) would then be to tunnel under the relatively shallow flats between Treasure Island and Emeryville – providing a 2nd connection to the East Bay!

  14. How many years before Treasure Island will be underwater?

    I’d love to see this museum in SF, but the LA location makes more sense. It’s too difficult to get out to Treasure Island and there’s not much else there. The museum would see a lot more traffic in LA, at least if these are the two locations under consideration.

    1. I agree. Just being near the Natural History Museum in LA will boost the traffic the Luca museum would get on its own. That and being at a light rail stop make LA the only real choice.

      1. Wrong! This thing (if it ever actually happens) will be a tourist “must-do.” The LA location is poison to that market. The Southern Embarcadero with amped up historic E streetcar service stopping right in front would be an immediate, perennial hit. Why can’t they see that after making it the alternative offer after the ridiculous Presidio proposal was rightfully rejected? Lucas refused it out of a miffed fit of pique. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

        1. By the time they eventually get a site accepted and build the thing, it’ll be a museum for “movies your grandfather thought were cool”…

    2. If the museum is built other businesses will follow. Cafes, restaurants, shops, and local art studios would certainly spring up.

      1. You mean in LA of course – there is no room for cafes, restaurants, studios and shops to spring up on TI. But for LA this could serve as a great fulcrum for studios, shops and such to blossom in the area around the museum.

  15. The ferry boat is just a mirage, the pier is the real design, a boardwalk or pier with a short-swim… sim. to escape from Alcatraz, it will be the escape from Treasure Island….

  16. On second thought hope the building is designed like a ferry boat and floats with his collection, than when the tides rise, the sea-wall fails, the boat can serve as noah’s ark and take the bay area elite in twosies off to some exotic locale….

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