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60+ Years of Design + Innovation

An Underground Convention Center in San Francisco
1981

An Underground Convention Center in San Francisco

The vast, column-free Moscone Convention Center exemplifies a building finely tuned to its purpose while adding a new public park to San Francisco. 

When a bond issue to finance this hall goes before San Francisco voters, citizens who resent the idea of adding another big building to the city’s growing bulk demand that it be put underground. This will not be easy, for the structure is to be one of the world’s largest column-free exhibit halls.

Located on an 11.5-acre site just south of Market Street, the 650,000-sq.-ft. Moscone Center is the first project to start construction within San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center Redevelopment Area. It is designed by HOK with Jack Young & Associates.

The tremendous cavern provides 6.3 acres in its main exhibit hall. Its roof is carried by eight pairs of post-tensioned reinforced concrete arches, each 275 feet in span. Ultimately these muscular concrete supports must also carry a park on the roof with a seven-foot depth of earth to nurture trees.

The arch frame design provides for a totally column-free exhibit space, creating an open and airy feeling in this underground space. The clear span also increases the hall’s flexibility.