Cladding Bridges New Pavilion to Bay Area Landmark

For the Golden Gate Bridge’s new welcome center, San Francisco-based Project Frog selected a fiber-cement cladding that was easily finished with the landmark’s signature color, while also offering the moisturecontrol benefits of a rainscreen system.

Photo © Mariko Reed

Not many bridges are well known enough to merit their own visitors' center, but San Francisco's Golden Gate is an exception. In May, as part of the bridge's 75th-anniversary celebration, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy opened the Bridge Pavilion to welcome an estimated 10 million annual visitors to the site. Located next to the toll plaza on the San Francisco side of the bridge, the 3,500-square-foot pavilion is linked to the world-famous landmark by color, employing an International Orange fiber-cement cladding from Nichiha USA.

Cladding Bridges New Pavilion to Bay Area Landmark
According to John Jackson, director of architecture at San Francisco–based Project Frog, the lead architect, the team used a prefabricated kit of parts to design and build the structure. “In a matter of weeks we had a high-quality, energy-efficient building envelope, ready for the interior tenant improvement work to begin,” says Jackson. The firm chose Nichiha's Illumination Series panels to help the building become “a modern interpretation of other masonry structures” on the historic site, including administrative buildings and the Art Deco Round House, says Jackson. He also cites the moisture-control benefits of the rainscreen system, the durability of the fiber-cement material, and the straightforward custom-color system that allowed the team to relate the building to the bridge. Containing 40% recycled content, the cladding works in tandem with other sustainable features, including Serious Energy suspended film glazing and interior and exterior LED lighting.
Nichiha uses a hidden-clip system that holds the panel ¼” from the vapor barrier, creating an air space for moisture to drain away from the building. Michael Cobb, vice president of sales and marketing for Nichiha USA, says the fire-resistant panels were produced by the Japanese building industry–which has had its fair share of experience with earthquakes–making them a good option for San Francisco. The ¾”-thick fiber-cement composition includes portland cement, wood fibers, and fly ash. A built-in gasket system and V-groove panel joints help prevent moisture penetration.
The 18"-x-6' panel dimension allowed Project Frog to use the panels straight from the box, eliminating extra cutting and waste and saving time. In the end, the material felt right to Jackson: “All the other boards had a flat finish to them, which is great in some applications. In this one we really liked the actual texture on the panel itself.”