Saturday, October 22, 2016
The New SFMOMA 2: Weird Feng Shui
On the top floor of the new SFMOMA, there is an outdoor balcony where you are greeted by ominous signage.
There are a few sculptures along a narrow walkway that stretches across most of the eastern side of the building.
In the L.A. Times, Christopher Hawthorne wrote: "Outside, as a presence in the cityscape, the Snohetta tower, clad in rippling off-white panels of fiberglass-reinforced polymer, is even more apologetic about both its ambition and its bulk. It is everywhere shaved off and pinned back, forever curving away from you as you stand on its one of extensive outdoor terraces and try to assess its scale and civic personality.
The contrast between that attitude and the way the other new towers in San Francisco's thickening skyline carry themselves is extreme. As you look east from the higher of the two terraces, on the seventh floor, you are confronted with the aggressively large and broad-shouldered dark-glass form of a new 26-story office building at 2nd and Howard streets, designed by Thomas Phifer and leased by LinkedIn. The SFMOMA tower is by comparison all stooping form and retreating volume."
Hawthorne continues: "The unfortunate symbolism of this relationship — the cultural building practically tripping over itself to stand down and out of the way, the new commercial buildings blithely taking up as much space in the sky as they can — seems typical of the balance of power in the new, money-drenched San Francisco. (The arts are not so much on the run here — how could they be, when there is so much wealth on so many boards of trustees? — as keenly aware of their place in the pecking order.)"
At the end of the 7th floor terrace, instead of a public exit/entrance that would allow for the smooth circulation of museum attendees, there is a clumsy sign insisting you retrace your steps to exit, an example of bad feng shui which is unfortunately mirrored in a number of the galleries.
The stairways on the Third Street side of the structure have been eliminated, except for the first couple of floors, so to move from one level to another you have the choice of a set of elevators, or a series of long, narrow staircases that are wedged into the new wing. All I could think of was what a mess it would be in an earthquake.
On the third floor, there is another outdoor space framed by the nation's largest "Living Wall," which I was looking forward to except that the terrace itself is so narrow one feels hemmed in rather than liberated.
Next to the Living Wall is the Alexander Calder Motion Lab, housing a huge collection of Calder mobiles collected by Donald Fisher.
"Motion Lab" is a misnomer, though. None of the mobiles are moving, which sort of defeats the purpose of kinetic sculpture.
Next Installment: A few of our favorite things at SFMOMA.