This is one of my favorite (museum) buildings in the Bay Area, mainly because I am a secret admirer of the Swiss architects Herzog & DeMeuron. I think their way of working with materials and space is rather unique and fascinating.
Named for its founder and newspaper man M.H. de Young, the former building, which opened in 1895 and remodeled in 1915 by Louis Christian Mullgardt, was deemed seismically unsafe in 1989 and subsequently demolished in 2003. The new building designed by Herzog & De Meuron in collaboration with SF based architects Fong + Chan, Swinerton Builders and Hood Landscape Design opened in 2005.
The exterior skin is of perforated embossed copper and acts more like an natural organism. Exposed to the salt air it will with time patina and turn blue-green reflecting the foliage of the surrounding Golden Gate park. This idea of the museum having a constant relationship with the park is also repeated inside. Interior fern courts and glass panels connect the inside with the outside and play with the visitors indoor/outdoor experience.
Interestingly enough, the main museum and the tower are two structurally disconnected buildings. While the main museum is placed to emphasize its connection with the park, the tower rotates as it ascends/descends in a way so it orients itself with the grid of the City offering panoramic views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Park. Make sure to check out Ruth Asawa's wire sculptures in the tower lobby.
The collection focuses on American Art from 17th century onwards, international contemporary art, textiles and costumes and art from the Americas, the Pacific and Africa. Their current exhibitions cover many a topic with focus on the 20th century.
Their scupture garden is a must and open to the public. Do not miss James Turrell's Skyspace Three Gems (2005) located in the sculpture garden on your right.
Queen of Wire…
Ruth Asawa (1926 - 2013), one of California's most admired sculptors, has been a brilliant inspiration not only for generations of San Franciscans but also nationwide. She will always be remembered for her extraordinary wire sculptures, public commissions and community art projects.
In 1982, February 12 was declared "Ruth Asawa Day" by the City and County of San Fancisco.
Top left: Untitled, Oakland Museum of Art, 1974
Top center: Andrea Mermaid Fountain, Ghirardelli Square, 1968
Top right: Hyatt on Union Square Fountain, 1973
Bottom left: Buchanan Mall Fountain, Japantown 1976
Bottom center: Aurora Fountain, Bayside Plaza, 1986
Bottom right: Wire sculptures installation at de Young, Tower lobby, 2006