Fireboat Museum Floats on Wave of Glass

Fireboat Museum Floats on Wave of Glass

Hodgetts + Fung have designed a new home for Old Fire Boat No. 2, a landmark that was the oldest in service until it became a museum piece.
Courtesy Hodgetts + Fung

Funding has yet to be allocated to the Port of Los Angeles’ $6 million museum in San Pedro, designed by Hodgetts + Fung. The project will highlight a fireboat that served Los Angeles for 78 years, longer than any other “piece of apparatus” in the harbor, according to the LA Fire Department. Old Fire Boat No. 2, a National Historic Landmark known as the Scott to its crew, will be preserved within a 40-foot-tall curved frame and glass skin that will shield the 99-foot-long vessel.

The firm will etch a life-sized copy of Old Fire Boat No. 2’s original blueprint on the glass facade. Prinicipal Craig Hodgetts said the reflective quality of the glass will create an opaque surface from a distance, providing “a two-stage experience.”

“And, turning the museum inside out,” added fellow principal Ming Fung.

Once closer, visitors will see the boat as though it were floating on water: The ground will be excavated about 10 feet, and No. 2 will be propped up on a cradle structure. The powerful propellers and machinery of the boat’s underside will be visible, and patrons can scale the museum’s levels to see the rest of the boat.Beyond the “billboard” facade, the rest of the project, with a 7,500-square-foot footprint, will be understated so as not to overpower the boat itself. The museum’s other three sides will be covered with aluminum rods and dotted with portholes.

At an estimated $6 million, this design is a steal, according to its architects, who believe that a project of this magnitude would normally cost $10 million. Hodgetts expects excavation alone to cost nearly $2 million.

In tune with the project’s aim for LEED certification, the firm plans to use chilled water beams limited to the areas occupied by visitors. The estimated completion date is uncertain because nothing can move forward until the state of California’s budget can furnish the promised funds for the project.