The Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal is a glowing gateway that seamlessly integrates lighting while designing with resiliency in mind. The new terminal provides passenger ferry service to San Francisco and Oakland for the newly redeveloped former Alameda Naval Air Base. Alameda is an island with limited entrance and exit points. To mitigate the burden of new development and the traffic it brings to the island’s transportation network, the ferry terminal was built to serve as an alternative for commuters. The success of the lighting design for the terminal was a key part of designing a facility that is attractive to patrons and encourages them to consider using this new service.


The design team set out to create an iconic structure that both welcomes passengers to Alameda while serving as symbol of the modern San Francisco Bay Ferry system, and the lighting was designed to reinforce this vision. The shade structure is dramatically uplit, serving to both accent the structure while also creating an inviting atmosphere for passengers. Adjacent walls and ramps are similarly softly accented with light complementing the illumination of the shade structure. The overall result is a glowing beacon that is recognizable from afar, serving to draw passengers into the terminal.


Our team started with the concept that the lighting effects for the shade structure and pier should have an almost ethereal quality, utilizing luminaires that would not add visual clutter to the environment. This was achieved through the selection of luminaires with shielded sources as well as creative mounting details. From linear surface washers on the ramps to the in-grade wall washers at the front of the pier, occupants experience the effect of the illumination without seeing the light source itself. While the uplights for the shade canopy structure are visible, the indirect light source itself is not. The detailing of the mounting of these luminaires to the shade structure columns was carefully coordinated, ensuring that the transition between the two elements was clean and elegant.


Given the project’s location on the San Francisco Bay, it is constantly exposed to the sea air and saltwater. Also, it is publicly accessible 24 hours a day with no staff on-site to provide security services. For these reasons the luminaires selected needed to be of the highest quality and durability to stand the test of time. Selections were made that balanced these needs with a limited budget to help ensure that this piece of critical infrastructure will continue to shine long into the future.


Lighting for infrastructure is often rather mundane and utilitarian. This project is certainly an exception to that rule. Through a highly collaborative effort, the design team was able to develop a lighting design for the project that met not only its functional needs, but also its higher aspirations of enhancing the passenger experience while creating a new landmark in the night.

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