Save The Shipyard

The Shipyard in Berkeley, a collection of shipping containers and a collective for artists and tinkerers, was given three days by the city of Berkeley to “vacate and abate” or face fines of $2500/day. The Shipyard has a history of conflicts with the city of Berkeley, such that the city denied them access to the electrical grid. In response, The Shipyard’s Jim Mason designed a solar power system so that The Shipyard produced all the energy it consumed. Now, it appears the conflict has come to a sad end with the city of Berkeley forcing the Shipyard to move out now. This is a blow to the unique maker culture of the Bay Area as well as the Burning Man community.

Photo Credit: Scott Beale,

Jim Mason writes in email to the Shipyard mailing list:

We therefore have decided to end our art and alternative energy endeavers here in the City of Berkeley and move to a new location.

We come to this conclusion with tremendous sadness and loss, as the open collaborative space we have built here has become a deeply vibrant art/tech skunkworks, continually churning out heroic creativity in the arts as well as very needed innovation in DIY, open source, alternative energy endeavors. We have undertaken these activities as a community collaboration, and used our creative and innovative work as an civic engine for generating meaningful community for many. The results have been tremendous, vastly exceeding any expectations we had when we started this 6 years ago.

Jim adds that “the core issue in this has been what the city wants to justify the
containers as structurally sound buildings.” This unique makeshift feature of the Shipyard is its stacking of old shipping containers to house supplies and studios and large batteries that are re-charged each day.

Jim has written the city asking for a month to vacate the premises and he’s in the process of securing a new location in Oakland if possible — mirroring The Crucible’s move from Berkeley to Oakland years ago. Hmmn. There’s a lot of work to be done to uproot the Shipyard and replace it somewhere else.

The Shipyard is homebase for lots of projects including The Neverwas Haul, the three-story steam-powered Victorian House, in the picture below, with Shannon O’Hare.

The Neverwas Haul and other projects from the Shipyard will be coming to Maker Faire this year. But these folks are now in a state of shock. Babalou who is involved with the Shipyard and is helping organize volunteers for Maker Faire writes:

All of this coming down on the Shipyard is a death in the family. This is
very serious and very sad for the overall community and what Jim Mason
worked so hard to create. Shock has finally set into my brain about all of
this. I was at the Shipyard yesterday night for a bit and saddened to come
face to face with the reality that Berkley is intent on putting an end to an
amazing artists collective.

It doesn’t make sense for the city of Berkeley to kick out a group of creative, resourceful people that they should be welcoming as such a great asset to the community. All of us at Make will be following this situation closely and doing whatever we can to support Jim and The Shipyard.