Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

More Ford Assembly Building 
Richmond, California


An aerial view of my kite staging location with the Ford Plant in the upper right. The brick paved turnaround marks the westernmost expansion of the contemporary Harbour Bay mixed-use development. The Volkswagen is thankful that it is not parked on steep slopes. (Canon 24-mm, May 2000)


I took these photographs on a day with light and variable winds. The lifter of the day was the carbon-framed Carlisle Rokkaku flown on 100-pound kiteline. It was a nice open site for launching and Thomas and I had a fine half-hour of just flying the kite waiting for the wind to build in. Once the camera was aloft the wind built steadily and the kite would overfly now. One time the kite and camera flew directly overhead, became unstable, and completed a loop. I can report that this is still a nerve jangling experience.

Plan view of a Caterpillar backhoe that was parked next to my launching area. I was taken with its shadow. Note too the large bucket scrape that does not match the backhoe bucket. (Canon 24-mm, May 2000)

The Ford Assembly Building is the last remaining major building on the West Coast designed by the renowned industrial architect, Albert Kahn, whose firm designed buildings for Henry Ford and others of the early U.S. automobile industry. This building is historically significant both for its architectural qualities and for the role it played in the automobile industry. The Ford Assembly Building was designed in 1930 and completed in 1931. I understand that Ford operated the plant up to the mid-1950s and then it drifted into a series of various uses including laboratory space for the University of California and service as a set for the film Tucker. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. A year later the structure was severely damaged in the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 and "red tagged." It has been unoccupied ever since.

The Richmond Redevelopment Agency has secured $15 million toward repair of the building from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Office of Emergency Management. They are now building a redevelopment team (see their 1998  RFQ (Request for Qualifications for the developers interested in coordinating the renovation of this site.)


Views of the building's west facade near the crane way. Kids have been throwing rocks at these windows since the building was red-tagged after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. It is starting to look a pretty shabby.  (Canon 24-mm,
May 2000)

The redevelopment project includes a 23 acre site containing the factory's assembly building, a boiler house, a craneway, an oil house, and accessory buildings and structures. The assembly building, boiler house, craneway and oil house have been determined to be historic while the accessory buildings and shed have been determined to be intrusive. The building is over 1,000 feet long on its north-south axis and encloses more than 500,000 square feet of space.

Happily, Richmond appreciates the architectural character of the building which they attribute to " long expanses of industrial sash and brick spandrels, the over water craneway facing the bay with its 100 foot by 400 foot clear span, the boiler house with its distinctive smokestack and by the northlight windows which give the building its characteristic sawtooth roof."  I wish them the best of luck in taking this project forward and urge a genuine commitment to embrace the dignity of this architectural jewel.

More views of the Ford Plant's west face. On the left is the well-proportioned brick facade of the Craneway with its butterfly roof monitors. On the right is a view down 800 feet of continuous, steel-sash fenestration. The bricks lying on the ground were dislodged from the building's facia by the Loma Prieta Earthquake (Canon 24-mm, May 2000)
My kite under the watchful gaze of security on the left -- it usually helps to have an informal chat with security folks. On the right is the Red & White Ferry that now docks just to the west of the Ford Plant. These passengers have been to a Giants game at San Francisco's new PacBel Park. (Canon, 15-mm left, 24-mm right, May 2000)



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