Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

The Ford Motor Company Assembly Building
Richmond, California


A Diebenkorn-esque view (to me at least) of a WW-II California industrial landscape. The factory in this image has been abandoned for years. (Canon 24-mm, May 2000)

Around a year ago son Charlie Benton and I made a Sunday afternoon expedition out to Point Richmond for a bit of sailing on his part and kite flying on mine.  We did neither due to an uncharacteristic and total absence of wind. The day then turned to an enjoyable, wandering tour of the harbor on Richmond's southern edge. Point Richmond's role as the western terminus of transcontinental rail traffic began to attract industry one hundred year's ago. The town was incorporated in 1905 with a population of just over 2,000 people. Building on the successes of early wineries, petroleum refineries, and railroad facilities, bond issues authorized in 1912 and 1920 to develop the Port of Richmond by dredging a channel and harbor in the shallow waters of adjacent San Francisco Bay. The spoils of this dredging were dumped in the tidal wetlands to create more land for development. 

Richmond really boomed during World War II as shipyards located along its compact shoreline produced cargo ships for the war effort and quadrupled the city's population. Although new industries moved in to fill the shipyards Richmond went through a period of consolidation. More recently Richmond's south shoreline has been transformed again as residential and light commercial mixed use developments have progressed from the Harbour Bay project westward.  


Views of the old plant where the smokestack of a Boiler House provides a key vertical element. The bay end of the building features a large, high-bay Craneway space built on a dock over the water. The building in the foreground of the righthand image is a dilapidated Oil House. The large (indigenous?) eucalyptus tree lends a poignant  element to the composition that somehow ties things back to human scale  (Canon 24-mm, May 2000)

This is fun territory to explore -- filled with remnants of epochs past. At the edge of the water that day Charlie and I came across what appeared to be abandoned factory. I was immediately curious about this industrial ruin. Set amid Richmond's landscape of ad hoc, careless industrial artifacts this factory was a clear and artful architectural statement. In the manner of the best industrial buildings the old ruin was finely composed. And this was true at scales ranging from building massing to the vocabulary of windows and doors. The overall effect was easy to appreciate. However derelict, and the building is clearly a derelict, what Charlie and I wandered around that day qualifies as architecture. I was charmed, and also determined to learn more about the factory's history..   

A views down the long north-south axis of the building on the left, a thousand feet of skylights over assembly space. On the right is a view of Oil House and Craneway. (Canon 24-mm, May 2000)
Two views showing the smokestack as an organizing element. In the righthand image you can see ships docked in the current Port of Richmond. (Canon 24-mm, May 2000)



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