Field Trip: deYoung Museum

A new series offers some highlights of the epic roadtrip down the coast of California and over to Arizona and back to Oregon via Palm Springs – over two weeks of the holidays. These won’t be in any particular order – just grabbing what grabs my attention when sifting through photos.

deYoung Museum – San Francisco

A highlight indeed, and on my list of desired destinations, was the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. Located in Golden Gate Park, the museum building was designed by Herzog & de Meuron with landscape architecture by Walter Hood.

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Most notable is the exterior cladding, which as we approached from behind the building, made for a very sci-fi type of form when approaching the tower. I could spend hours on the cladding alone – which to me becomes as important of a landscape feature as the site work – due to its texture and mutable materiality.DSC08248

The rhythm of inside and outside bumps offers a soft skin, which is punctuated at times with a grid of varying circles, which provide porosity to the skin and make what could have been a monolith more light. The copper lends itself to changing through oxidation to create a patina.

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The greater site landscape itself is not trying too hard – but does a fair job of buoying the building in a minimalist scheme and creating some comfortable pockets of respite. The goal isn’t for a landscape of flash – but one of restraint, and Hood performs this task with alternating bands of concrete and lawn, with a few moments of more verdant foreground. The path right next to the building, which i find often disconnects building from site (the modernist floating structure) in this case allows one to get close to the copper cladding.

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The highlight was the amazing entry installation called ‘Drawn Stone’ by Andy Goldsworthy, which is a subtle tracery that zig-zags and flows through the open courtyard space – a fine crack that connects through sandstone pavers and continues unabated through imported stone slabs to create a disparate yet connected composition of forms throughtout the space. With very little, the space feels very complete.

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Inspired by the ‘techtonic topography’ per the signage, the earthquake faultline metaphor could have been a bit heavy handed, but i didn’t think of it until i read the words – which means it can connote different possibilities. As Goldsworthy mentions: “Stone and people making the same journey is for me a powerful expression of movement and of the great upheavals and displacements that have occurred to both.”

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I’m not normally a big fan of these austere minimalist spaces – but the texture of walls and the layout of elements makes this work. It’s not a place to linger and zone out, but perhaps more to explore and hone in on the immaculate detailing. Guess that could be the takeaway for the whole building.

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The interior spaces offer some spots of greenery, such as this shaftlike courtyard of ferns, which softened a bit of the angularity of the interior.

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As the museum was closing, we didn’t tour the exhibits, but stopped for some refreshment in the cafe – which overlooked the central plaza garden. Oh, wait, what is that right across the street…?

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Coming soon…

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