Locating Starfleet Buildings in
by Bernd Schneider and Drew Stewart
We can see Starfleet's buildings in and around San Francisco in all series except for TOS and in some of the TOS movies. Since many of the shots also show real-world references such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the cityscape, other landmarks and topological features, it is interesting to try to locate these buildings on a map of the real San Francisco Bay.
Furthermore, as we have snapshots of the Bay Area at different times, it may be possible to outline a coarse history of Starfleet's buildings and sites. Considering that the locations of specific Starfleet facilities such as most obviously Starfleet Headquarters are subject to vary whenever new matte paintings or CGI effects are created and, on the other hand, sometimes an existing image is re-used for a different facility, a chronology may help to make the relocations more plausible.
The Starfleet facilities that can be seen on Star Trek Enterprise are all concentrated on the northern shore of the Golden Gate, east of the bridge.
All Starfleet facilities that we see in the TOS movies are located at the northern shore of the Golden Gate, west of the bridge. The only exception is the tram station in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture".
Starfleet tram station, 2271 In "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" we can see how Admiral Kirk's air tram, coming from some location at the northern shore of the Golden Gate east of the bridge, arrives at a station located some 300 meters east of the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, atop the hill range in the Presidio. The reverse angle of the bridge as seen from inside the station confirms this location. Strictly speaking, the tram station doesn't have to be a Starfleet Installation. In fact, there is a big Federation emblem on the floor, and it is well possible that another organization takes care of public transportation in 2271.
On a side note, the former roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge itself is covered with thick plates or tubes in both versions of the first Trek movie, perhaps a part of some sort of an antigrav or maglev transportation system (that may have become obsolete because of the new free flying air tram system?). This addition will be removed until the 24th century.
For Robert Wise's Director's Cut of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" an entirely new air tram sequence was created. The shuttle now approaches from some point west of the bridge. But most obviously the air tram station is now located directly beside southern bridge head, hovering above Fort Point.
Also, San Francisco has more and taller buildings in the Director's Cut.
apartment, 2285 While it probably isn't a Starfleet
building itself, the location of Admiral Kirk's apartment in
the city center of San Francisco indicates that the air tram in TMP
didn't come from his apartment, although it is quite possible that he
moved in the 14 years between the two movies.
On a perhaps more interesting note, Kirk is staring out of the window in "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan", in the direction of Starfleet Academy (former Earth Starfleet Headquarters), pondering about his age. On the right side of the screen cap we can see plenty of lights in Marin County on the other side of the bay, obviously meant to represent Sausalito.
Council building, 2271- 2286 In "Star
Trek: The Voyage Home" (2286) there is a shot of the exterior of the
Federation Council building. We can recognize the city at the opposite
shore on the other side of the bridge, which puts the Council building on the northern shore, west of the bridge. The most likely exact location is
in a small valley a bit less than one kilometer to the west. On the left side of
the screen capture we can make out a part of the hill that is directly at
the western side of the northern bridge head, the site of the Starfleet
Headquarters in 2286.
The Federation Council complex has to be the same one that is visible left of the bridge from the reverse angle in the already mentioned air tram scene from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (2271).
Headquarters building, 2286-2293 The control
room of Starfleet Command in "Star Trek: The Voyage Home" (whose
glass window gets smashed) is located close to the northern end of the
Golden Gate Bridge (we can see a bit of the city in the background between
Admiral Cartwright and the crewman), in an
elevated position above the roadbed of the bridge.
We don't see this building from the outside in the movie. But obviously someone remembered its supposed location correctly when an exterior shot of Starfleet Headquarters at night was created for "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country". It is not certain looking at the according screen caps from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", but is is possible that the building doesn't yet exist as of 2271.
There is an error in the shot from "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country", however. In reality there is no such high hill on the right side of the bridge, which would be east of the bridge on the northern shore. As we already know, on this side the road runs alongside a scarp and the view from the 22nd century Starfleet Command is not obstructed by such a hill. The image was manipulated more extensively than just the addition of the new building. Actually, the high hill right of the bridge with the lone tree on the top should be located on the left side. The real image was horizontally flipped, and a new hill was created along with the building.
In the three 24th century series TNG, DS9 and Voyager it seems that most Starfleet facilities can be found northeast of the bridge.
Starfleet Academy, 2368-2377 The first time that we can see Starfleet Academy is in TNG: "First Duty" (note the flag at half-mast because of the death of one cadet in the shuttle accident). In the real world the building that we look at is the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles. The footage of the real location was supplemented with new upper stories and embedded into a matte painting with additional buildings and with the Golden Gate Bridge, placing this part of the Starfleet Academy campus area in the area of Horseshoe Bay, perhaps 200m northeast of the site of the former 21st century Earth Starfleet Command. Note that it looks like the bridge is somewhat farther away from the camera than in the shots from Enterprise, while the line of vision is the same.
Starfleet Academy appears again in VOY: "In the Flesh", here as a simulation created by Species 8472, including a member of the alien species as Boothby and presumably precise enough that Chakotay wouldn't notice the difference if he were not aware that everything was recreated on a huge space station. On the other hand, while the real year is 2377, everyone in this simulation without exception is running around in the old-style Starfleet uniforms as they were retired in 2373. It is possible that single Starfleet officers on Earth, notably admirals, may still wear the old style four years later. But certainly not everyone. So the only possible conclusion is that Species 8472 based their simulation on outdated records from Voyager's computer.
Another inaccuracy is that the building in "In the Flesh" and its immediate surrounding is very similar but evidently not the same as in TNG: "The First Duty". Since the data the simulation is based on probably dates back to 2371, we wouldn't expect the area to change that much in only three years since 2368. Still it looks like the "Tillman Plant" was heavily modified and some of the surrounding buildings demolished (and rather not destroyed in the Breen attack that would occur as late as in 2375). Well, the Golden Gate Bridge appears to be closer in "In the Flesh", actually just as close as in the Enterprise episodes. It is well possible that this is another part of Starfleet Academy, one that was built on the site of the former Earth Starfleet Command or is located very close to it, presupposing that the historical building in which the Federation was effectively forged would never be knocked down just because it isn't needed any longer.
On a different note, we can notice many highrises in San Francisco on the opposite shore, in an area where they obviously didn't exist in the 22nd century and may have been covered by the building on the left in "The First Duty". Considering that the cityscape of San Francisco varies considerably between the 22nd and the 24th century --let alone "Star Trek (2009)"--, at least this trend is consistent.
|Starfleet Headquarters building, 2364 The unchanged footage of the Council building west of the bridge appears in TNG: "Conspiracy", here serving as the Starfleet Headquarters. It looks like the Federation Council has moved to another building or building complex (although the Federation emblem and lettering is still in place), or Starfleet Headquarters temporarily uses some of the Federation's facilities.|
Headquarters building, 2372 The building
consisting of the already mentioned Tillman Water Reclamation Plant as a
base and a ribbed and curved upper part (a model, actually) is the perhaps
most prominent visualization of Starfleet Headquarters, although it
appeared in just one episode, DS9: "Homefront". As opposed to
all previous versions of Starfleet Command or Headquarters, its site is
definitely near the southern shore of the Golden Gate, in the area of the
Presidio. We are looking at the Golden Gate Bridge from a slightly
elevated position and not from the waterfront as in "Star Trek
(2009)" (see below). The photo of the bridge used in this shot was
probably taken from Doyle Drive, just northwest of the National Cemetery.
But it was inserted into the background of the matte at a small scale, to
insinuate that the bridge is at a longer distance, so overall the matte
may not correspond with a possible real camera position. The 24th century
building may be found somewhere on or southeast of the present-day
cemetery, although in reality the view of the bridge from there is
The fairly symmetrical Golden Gate Bridge being the only point of reference, we could still claim the actual site is on the opposite side near the Federation Council, only somewhat more to the west. However, this alternative area is nowhere as low and flat in reality as it looks on the image, and it seems very unlikely that Starfleet would level the hills at the entrance to the bay so much to obtain a large building ground there (and additionally an unobstructed panoramic view).
On a side note, the stone garden at Starfleet Headquarters in "Homefront" is exactly the same as the one at Starfleet Academy in "In the Flesh", the obvious reason being that it is the actual surrounding of the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant.
In "Paradise Lost", the second part of the double feature, we can see what is supposedly meant to be Starfleet Headquarters at night. But in the night shot the upper stories of the building are missing. What we see is just the Tillman building without additions. In an in-universe explanation we could ignore that the upper stories are missing. Or we could be looking at any other building of Starfleet, perhaps the one of Starfleet Headquarters that would be destroyed in the Breen attack three years later (see below, 2375) and whose architecture is at least similar.
Also in "Paradise Lost", we can see the Golden Gate Bridge from inside Leyton's office, supposedly at Starfleet Headquarters. However, the bridge runs almost parallel to the office wall, which would be possible only from some point in the middle of the bay between Alcatraz and the bridge. Looking more closely, the hill range in the background and the buildings that are visible underneath the bridge insinuate that we are looking at the bridge from outside the bay and that the image has been horizontally flipped.
Starfleet Headquarters building, 2375 In DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil" we can see another shot of a building very similar to Starfleet Academy from nearly the same angle as later in "In the Flesh" and Star Trek Enterprise. While Martok speaks of "Starfleet Headquarters" and Sisko adds that he had a lot of friends in those buildings after looking at the monitor showing the aftermath of the Breen attack, it is well possible that the news footage actually shows Starfleet Academy. Considering that it was a large-scale attack on more than just one building (considering the damage on the bridge and the smoke in the city), it is only plausible that Starfleet Academy was hit just as well. On the other hand, the emblem that is visible on the ground is the one of Starfleet Command, not of Starfleet Academy.
The destroyed building in the foreground looks like it is yet another one on or near the Starfleet Academy campus. Most obviously it is much closer to the shore than any of the other ones, including those of 22nd century Starfleet Command. On the other hand, the later produced shot of the Academy for "In the Flesh" (2377, data from 2371) rather follows the lines of the building and its surroundings in "The Changing Face of Evil" (2375) than those of "The First Duty" (2368). Perhaps it was transferred from the Academy to Starfleet Command prior to its destruction?
"The Changing Face of Evil" too shows us shiny new tall buildings on the hill tops of San Francisco, albeit different ones than later in "In the Flesh".
|Starfleet apartments, 2377 Stock footage of the night shot of the Starfleet Headquarters building from 2286-2293 are used in VOY: "In the Flesh". Here it appears that the building now houses apartments for Starfleet officers (again presupposing that the simulation created by Species 8472 is accurate).|
|Starfleet Communications, 2376-2404 We see the exterior of Starfleet Communications in VOY: "Pathfinder" and once again in VOY: "Endgame". This building is apparently located in the city center of San Francisco. In the real world the building was created using parts of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong.|
|Starfleet Medical, 2404 Just for the sake of completeness, and technically already in the 25th century, "Endgame" also shows us a facility of Starfleet Medical. There is no clue as to where this building is located. The real building that the matte is based on is the Kaiser Baldwin Park Medical Center in Baldwin Park, California.|
In the new universe of "Star Trek (2009)" we can see an alternate Starfleet Academy.
Our map shows that there are basically six sites with Starfleet buildings around San Francisco Bay that we know of, three on the north shore and three on the south shore of the Golden Gate.
Known Starfleet sites around San Francisco Bay
(map by Google)
The particular facilities that are most frequently shown or referred to are Starfleet Academy and Starfleet Headquarters (or Starfleet Command). The location of Starfleet Academy at Horseshoe Bay remains somewhat consistent, although we may not always be looking at the very same buildings. Only in the alternate universe of "Star Trek (2009)" parts of the Academy or the whole institution seem to have moved to the Presidio.
Regarding Starfleet Headquarters, it was originally located at Horseshoe Bay at the time of Earth Starfleet. At some later date, it looks like a new building was erected on top of the hills almost directly beside the Golden Gate Bridge. This one can be seen in two of the TOS movies. The former site at Horseshoe Bay may have been incorporated into Starfleet Academy, but it is possible that some parts of Starfleet Headquarters are still located there, as seen in DS9: "The Changing Face of Evil". By 2372 the headquarters appears to have moved to the Presidio. At least its most prominent building is located here, the one of DS9: "Homefront".
More about Filming Locations
Re-Used Planet Sets - different planet surfaces that are amazingly alike
Re-Uses of the Vasquez Rocks Location - observations about Star Trek's most famous filming location
Most screen caps are taken from TrekCore; locations were identified with the help of Google Street View. Special thanks to Jörg Hillebrand for additional references, to Michael Minnick for corrections and to Patrick W. Noland for the hint about the Baldwin Park Medical Center.