Sunday, February 05, 2006

de Young Museum 1: Earthquake Crack Tower

From Civic Center, my friend David Barnard and I took a 5-Fulton bus to Golden Gate Park.

We were there to visit the new de Young museum, which reopened last fall in a brand new structure. The old building was demolished after being deemed seismically unsafe.

Though I had no particular fondness for the previous museum, except for its beautiful little outdoor garden dining area off of the cafeteria...

...I wasn't particularly looking forward to the new structure because all the published photos in the papers made the place look so cold and sterile.

David, however, proclaimed that he adored the place and so it seemed a good idea to take a tour with him and his enthusiasm in tow.

The entrance begins with an environmental sculpture by Andrew Goldsworthy that consists of a single crack in the stone entryway.

Goldsworthy is famous for creating works involving nature that are often quite temporal, though this piece is meant to be around for a while.

The single crack in the floor continued up over a boulder...

...and then turned into a series of maze-like cracks that tied together the other boulders in the oddly shaped plaza.

It was very cool, and even the wall of contributor names on the golden right wall was quite unobtrusive.

That was the one only time that the placement of donor names throughout the new building was even remotely subtle.

The rest of the signage reminded me of the famous early 1960s comedy album by Vaughan Meader where a faux Jacqueline Kennedy is giving a tour around the White House after her redecoration and narrating, "this chair was kindly donated by Mrs. Mildred Dunnett of Columbus, Ohio and the dust was kindly donated by Virginia Rouse of Colorado Springs, Colorado."

Our first destination was to the top of the newly famous tower, which makes the building look like either a Mayan/Incan ruin or an aircraft carrier, take your pick.

Though the entrance hallway is a bit sterile...

...the ticketing queue was great. If you have a membership like David, you can swipe your card through a touch screen and print out your own tickets for the day.

Even better, you don't even have to pay the $10 admission to go up the tower.

While waiting in line for the elevator, there are some Ruth Asawa sculptures to look at.

Unfortunately, the only way to get to the top of the tower is via a single elevator.

Though there are a set of stairs to walk down, they have a large "CLOSED" sign on them to prevent anyone from using them.

Since we had just experienced Goldsworthy's environmental entrance sculpture that was explicitly referencing the fact that we live in earthquake country...

...this inability to use multiple exits struck me as absurd and dangerous.

The view is certainly great, however, including the concourse where the Academy of Sciences is also being rebuilt, with one dumb wall remaining from the original structure.

The roof of the museum also looked interesting, and the spectacle on a clear day must be quite something.

The tower houses offices and storage space in its seven or eight stories, and our downward elevator stopped at a few of those floors, making an already claustrophobic experience really horrific when the employees/docents decided they wanted to crowd on.

I mentioned to one of these ladies that they were making an already bad experience even worse, and asked her when the stairway was going to finally be open. "Oh, it will never be open," she calmly responded with a smile.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful tour, but what an UGLY UGLY UGLY building. What in the hell is happening to architecture in SF??? IT appears the uglier and more modern, the better. The fascinting thing about SF was the grand old architecture and they are dummying it to the max. Ditto the NEW library etc.

Sam said...

It sounds to me like you wanted to hate it. But to my eyes your pictures make it look beautiful. And I, for one, happen to love Andrew Godlsworthy (just as much as I don't like Richard Long)

Civic Center said...

Dear Sam and Anonymous: Actually, I quite liked the building, excepting the claustrophobic elevator tower and a few other details. There are three more parts coming to this tour, so check back when I get the time and energy to put them up.

Anonymous said...

I kind of like the building too.It's not perfect but there is some good structure here and there..I was planning to come back because I've been toldthere was a Goldworthy and couldn't find it. Thanks for spotting it , he is one of my favourite land artist :)

Kimo C said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kimo C said...

Hey Mike

Wow I beat you the avant-garde connoisseur to something.

Let's return and play Rapunzel on a sunny day