In the time since the renovation of Ford Point—originally the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant—was completed in 2009, the site has won a string of awards that have helped return the historic landmark to its former stature. The building most recently earned architecture’s most coveted recognition: the American Institute of Architects’ Honor Award for Excellence in Architecture.
“This renovated facility has improved the region by saving an older building and its embodied energy,” reads a comment from the jury that selected the building for institute’s top honor.
The accolades reflect an exceptional design from one of the world’s greatest industrial architects, the historical weight of Ford Motor Company and Rosie the Riveters, the work of a persistent developer with a vision, the delicate touch of talented, green-minded architects, and the spending of tens of millions of dollars—although exactly how many millions is unclear. Ivonne Inurritegui-Folster, vice president of Orton Development, Inc., the site’s developer, declined to say how much the company paid to rehabilitate the building, but she said it was a hefty amount.
In the history of this mammoth icon also lies the history of a city—through all its ups and downs—bent on transformation.
Architect Albert Kahn was hired by Henry Ford to design the assembly plant in the late 1920s. Construction was complete in 1930, and the plant became the largest of the many automobile assembly plants on the West Coast.
At 517,000 square-feet, the building’s length runs for a quarter mile and it can house about 10 regulation-sized football fields, mostly under one long saw-toothed roof. Kahn’s brilliant “daylight factory” design featured thousands of windows and skylights to let in sheets of natural light.
During World War II, the plant was converted to assemble military jeeps and process tanks before they were shipped off across the Pacific to aid the war effort abroad. Though the plant continued to assemble consumer automobiles in the years after the war, it was finally closed in 1956, terminating a number of jobs that had helped sustain the city after the Kaiser shipyards closed several years prior.