Warehouse transformationMaking something out of nothing


A small team of Uber designers and producers transformed 69 acres of industrial space at San Francisco’s Pier 70 into a dramatic event venue for 6,000 people. Unlike many events, we challenged ourselves to build every component in the space from scratch.

Team department

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Team members / roles

  • Adam Whitfield - Creative
  • Molly DeShazo - Producer
  • Launched

    Dec 2016

    The project

    Uber partnered with architecture and engineering firm Laphant to custom design and build a venue that paid tribute to the vision and hard work of the Uber community. It was important to us to minimize our environmental impact and create a space that was functional but also inspiring and provocative.

    We decided to bring every aspect of the process—from conception to material fabrication—in-house. Our concept revolved around using grounded materials in an elevated way. While we let our imaginations run wild, we worked within the constraints of material fabrication and durability. Having full control of the process allowed us to bring our unique creative vision to life.

    The space

    Pier 70, the country’s oldest civilian shipyard, was a perfect blank canvas: raw, industrial and large enough to let us be unrestricted in our design.

    Exterior shot of Pier 70.

    Pier 70

    The first thing one feels when walking into the space is an overwhelming sense of scale (with ceilings over 100 feet high). To match the immensity of the venue, our challenge was to design in three dimensions. We had to find ways to break up the massive square footage into functional, inviting areas, while creating installations that complemented the vast vertical space above.

    • 227,000 sq ft

    • 3 level steel structure

    • No existing infrastructure

    Proposed layout

    Wireframe diagram of Pier 70 layout.


    We began by making a precise 3D model of the pier. This allowed us to form our designs around the existing physical structure and test how installations would fit in real-time while allowing the structural engineer to assess feasibility.


    To ensure that our designs were structurally sound, we relied on 3D printing and CNC methods to make models that we tested before mass fabricating. We rented a small warehouse in Burlingame where we could create prototypes quickly.


    All fabrication took place locally. To guarantee a high level of quality, we assembled a team of local craftsmen including metalworkers, woodworkers, and other artists who were passionate about design.


    Materials used in construction.
    Craft paperAC plywoodCementCanvasLightIce

    Core materials

    We needed materials that were lightweight, cost-effective, voluminous and sustainable whenever possible. This led us to supplies like ice, which would melt away, and paper, which could be recycled.

    Our creative challenge was manipulating these conventional materials in unconventional ways. Luckily for us, one of the largest paper manufacturers in the U.S. is based in the Bay Area. We worked with them to understand the limitations of the material—and pushed them to create enormous cylindrical forms in great quantity.

    Design variables

    After selecting paper cylinders as our primary building component, we adjusted different variables like length, diameter, and angle, and played with repetition to create a virtually unlimited palette of structures.

    Primary elements

    Physically imposing and heroic in scale, these installations helped break up the space

    Discovery walls

    Inviting exploration, these walls were made up of hundreds of paper cylinders some pushing 18 ft in height. Over 1000 linear ft of cylinders were firmly rooted to the ground with over 35 tons of concrete footings. A mother mold was first 3D printed then copied and adjusted many times to create an assembly line of composites with various angles. Finally each concrete form was sanded by hand to create a truly refined surface.


    Roughly the size of a semi truck, each monolith was suspended in the air throughout the space. Due to their sheer size, the monoliths were broken into four individual modules which were transported individually and then assembled on site using a specially engineered large format jig.


    Inspired by Willie Williams’ infamous Omnia chandelier, this 40 ft wide structure acted as the centerpiece within the space. Over 700 individual clamps were used to mount the paper cylinders to truss and wood supports above. The shape was cut on site using a circular laser matching angles from our 3D model.


    Auxiliary elements

    Served functional / utility purpose

    Terraced seating

    Mimicking topography, large format seating clusters comprised of steel framing, wood and paper cylinders provided a seating capacity for up to 1,200. We wanted the seating to feel organic, so we designed the shapes without right angles. While this posed a challenge to engineering, it was a critical feature that gave the seating its distinctive look.

    Photo booths

    A primary 20 ft wide, 360° photo booth made up of 6,000 cylinders and supported by thin wooden saddles held over 20 people. Adjacent photobooths presented a more chaotic structural form made of many offset cylinders that gave the images a unique feeling of depth.

    Tabletops and suspended seating

    Three uniquely shaped table surface modules that when combined in different orders and directions allowed us to achieve 1800ft of purposefully shaped, visually solitary clusters. Additionally, long, suspended swings hung from beams to provide a tangible level of interaction with the installation.


    It took nearly three months of planning and six days of installation to prepare for this event at Pier 70. The result was a truly memorable occasion and a feat of physical design and structural engineering. We pushed ourselves to do something different, and it was a gratifying learning experience for everyone involved.


    paper cylinders used


    hours of fabrication


    people made it possible

    Find the perfect fit

    We’re looking for talented creatives from all disciplines. Our team is focused on creating beautiful, functional designs that fit people’s lives. We’d love for you to join us.

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