Monday, February 21, 2005

The Emperor is wearing a copper sheath

John King, the Chronicle's architecture critic---his column is called "Place"--- is in full Panglossian mode this week. King on the new, bunker-like de Young Museum building in Golden Gate Park:

Whether you anticipate or abhor the de Young's arrival depends on whether you welcome a splash of innovation in the staid local architecture scene, or you loathe a contemporary intrusion in our aged artificial park. But guess what? The controversy will fade. The de Young we grow to know will be filled with familiar art, wrapped in outdoor sculpture and vegetation. 

We won't be experiencing some abstract architectural installation on bare soil, but an evolving art storehouse. That art is what, over time, will add resonance to the new de Young. The architecture is provocative, yes---but it is one small piece of the overall package. When architecture is applied to something as public and memorable as a museum, architecture is not an art form in and of itself. It is a vessel waiting to be filled. And that's when the fun begins ("N.Y.'s MOMA Offers Insight into de Young," SF Chronicle, Feb. 17, 2005).

I'm not having any fun yet with the new de Young building. It looks like a bunker to me, notwithstanding the artsy copper sheath and the tower. Maybe it looks better inside. I hope so. 

King is wrong about those of us who think it's an ugly building. I don't mind "a contemporary intrusion into our aged artificial park"---a redundancy, since parks by definition are artificial---but some intrusions are more intrusive than others.

"Evolving art storehouse"? Looks like a warehouse to me. And how exactly does a building "evolve"? A design that suited a park environment would have been better, instead of a warehouse-like building that looks like it was transported from the Nevada desert. 

Nor will the art inside necessarily redeem this building. Concealing it with "outdoor sculpture and vegetation" will surely help. Or maybe we can get Christo to wrap it in fabric.

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