Herzog & de Meuron
Competition
1999
Project
2000-2002
Realization
2002-2005

The M.H. de Young Memorial Museum houses numerous collections, representing a variety of cultures from all over the world. The works of art in these collections go from the present day all the way back to the beginnings of human history. The museum is therefore not a homotopical site, defined by a homogeneous, self-contained approach to art, but rather a heterotypical site that is open and receptive to the artistic diversity of our planet.

The architecture of the new building seeks to communicate this diversity; it is an embodiment of the open-ended concept of art fostered by the museum. It expresses the distinctiveness of different cultures and, at the same time, it is a place of common ground, where diversity meets and intersects, where otherwise hidden kinships between divergent cultural forms become visible and tangible.

Innovative architecture alone does not suffice to do justice to these requirements; the curatorial concept must be equally innovative. Conversations with curators and visitors at an early stage allow us to incorporate ideas on architecture, urban planning, landscaping, and curating as coequal components of a dialogue-oriented planning process. In curatorial terms, we tried to provide a variety of exhibiting conditions, resulting in a kind of typology of exhibition spaces. We wanted to define different types of exhibition spaces that reflect the differences in background and evolution of the works of art.

We worked on the assumption of two main groupings: works created in the context of our Western understanding of art and those created as part of a superior cultural or religious system.

Correspondingly, the new de Young Museum offers classically proportioned rooms or galleries with fixed walls and overhead lighting. These are ideal for viewing and studying the paintings, sculptures, and furniture of the 19th and 20th century collections of American art. Other galleries with a freer, more open arrangement and primarily artificial illumination are intended for objects from Central and South America, Africa, and Oceania. Closed spaces are scattered in between, like fixed stars accentuating the visitor’s tour of the museum.

In exploring possible designs for the new museum, we originally came up with the idea of separate buildings, like pavilions, placed throughout the park, each housing a different collection and giving expression to the diversity of cultures. It gradually became clear that it would be more meaningful to house all the components under one roof, in one interrelated, but varied architectural context. We thought of a kind of organism with several limbs or extensions, like the fingers of a hand. We arranged the building in three parallel bands (or fingers) so that the park fills the spaces in between and reaches all the way into the heart of the new building where it forms inner courtyards. Nature, trees, plants, and water, in various forms, are an integral part of the building.The three parallel elements do not lay side by side like detached, abstract art containers but are interconnected and interrelated so that viewers experience in space the interfaces and areas of friction among the cultures represented at the de Young Museum. The architecture of the new museum is not narrative; it is not a romantic interpretation of encounters between cultures; nor is it an abstract space for the storage of art objects; the architecture intends to visibly demonstrate and foster our awareness of the coexistence and equality of cultures.

The contacts and switches between the sections of the new museum can be seen as specific places within the greater organism as a whole. At the same time, they are places that join and separate – from inside to outside and back again.

The tripartite structure of the buildings that rub against each other like continental shelves makes it possible for the Golden Gate Park to penetrate the museum. This is one architectural strategy: to make the architecture of the new building permeable, open, and inviting for the people of San Francisco. For this reason much of the first floor is non-ticketed. The entire lobby, the main court, the restaurant, the museum store, and the children’s gallery are open to park visitors free of charge and, at the top of the tower, a panorama deck affords a view of the park and the city.

A second architectural strategy involves the large roof, which expresses the collective gesture of people gathering together. It projects all the way out to the Japanese Tea Garden and provides a pleasant outdoor area regardless of rain or shine. The roof is conceived as a filigreed structure that casts intricate patterns of light and shadow on the ground.

A third architectural element, the Education Tower, is a clearly identifiable landmark that looks out on the nearby JFK drive and the city. Given the location and the placement of the museum building and the concourse, the figure of the tower takes a geometrical stand in relation to the strict rectangular grid of the city. The Education Tower is literally the hinge between museum and city. It affords a view, an overview, and insight into the various cultures of this world at this select location in Golden Gate Park of San Francisco.

© Herzog & de Meuron, 2005

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Process

Founded in 1895, the de Young lies at the landward end of the Golden Gate Park. Natural materials set the tone: from the eucalyptus trees and the Danish windmill in the park with its redwood shingles and copper roofing, to the Japanese tea garden next to the de Young.

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Situated in the park at a 40° angle to the street grid, in dialogue with the original building.

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From a cluster of pavilions to a three-banded building with cut-out courtyards. The tower rising from the broadest band faces the city’s street grid.

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Models of gallery types: white cube, homely atmosphere, architectural showcases.

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For the facade, photos of backlit tree crowns are pixelated and enlarged.

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Extensive experiments with embossed and perforated copper sheeting finally achieve the desired effect of light breaking through.

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Based on osmosis: roof and upper-floor layout and shimmering facades.

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Once the cladding has been completed, this steel- framed building, with its cantilevered roof covering a restaurant terrace and its many incisions, will be the world’s biggest copper building.

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The huge volume of the low-rise structure in dialogue with the park and the city.

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Spatial diversity: a stagelike foyer, auditorium, white cubes, classic picture galleries in the style of the early settlers, views towards the park and courtyard, ocean gallery with showcases.

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Drawings

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Team

Facts

In Collaboration With
Rémy Zaugg, Basel, Switzerland
Client
Corporation of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, USA
Planning
This project was developed in collaboration with an architect licensed in the state of California acting as the "Architect of Record". Herzog & de Meuron is not licensed to practice architecture in the state of California.
Primary Designers: Herzog & de Meuron, Basel, Switzerland
Principle Architect: Fong & Chan Architects, San Francisco, USA
General Contractor: Swinerton Builders, San Francisco, USA
Structural Engineering: Rutherford & Chekene, San Francisco, USA
Mechanical Engineering: Ove Arup & Partners, London, UK
Landscape Design: Hood Design, Oakland, USA
Specialist / Consulting
Acoustic Consulting: Charles M. Salter Associates, San Francisco, USA
Building Code Consulting: Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc., San Francisco, USA
Facade Consulting: A. Zahner Architectural Metals, Kansas City, USA
Fire Protection Consulting: Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc., San Francisco, USA
Lighting Consulting: Ove Arup & Partners, London, UK
Theater Consulting: Auerbach + Associates, Inc., San Francisco, USA
Life Safety: Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc., San Francisco, USA
Security: Steven R. Keller and Associates, Florida, USA
Security: Rolf Jensen & Associates, Inc., San Francisco, USA
Store Design: Charles Sparks & Company, Chicago, USA
Elevators Consulting: Hesselberg, Keesee & Associates, San Francisco, USA
Office Interior Design: Studios Architecture, San Francisco, USA
Building Data
Gross floor area (GFA): 290'625 sqft, 27'000 sqm
Footprint: 91'493 sqft, 8'500 sqm
Links
deyoung.famsf.org

Bibliography

Gerhard Mack, Herzog & de Meuron: “Herzog & de Meuron 1997-2001. The Complete Works. Volume 4.” Edited by: Gerhard Mack. Basel / Boston / Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2008. Vol. No. 4.

Luis Fernández-Galiano (Ed.): “Arquitectura Viva. Herzog & de Meuron 1978-2007.” 2nd rev. ed. Madrid, Arquitectura Viva, 2007.

Nobuyuki Yoshida (Ed.): “Architecture and Urbanism. Herzog & de Meuron 2002-2006.” Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co., Ltd., 08.2006.

Ascan Mergenthaler: “Ascan Mergenthaler. Herzog & de Meuron. The de Young Museum.” In: Nobuyuki Yoshida (Ed.). “Architecture and Urbanism. Implementing Architecture.” Vol. No. 428, Tokyo, A+U Publishing Co., Ltd., 05.2006. pp. 32-41.

Jacques Herzog, Brett Terpeluk: “Intervista a Jacques Herzog.” In: Francesco dal Co (Ed.). “Casabella. Rivista Internazionale di Architettura.” Vol. No. 741, Milan, Arnoldo Mondadori, 02.2006. pp. 24-25; pp. 107-108.

Hubertus Adam: “Kupfernes Gewächshaus für die Kunst. De Young Museum in San Francisco.” In: Katja Kohlhammer (Ed.). “Deutsche Bauzeitung. Zeitschrift für Architektur und Bauingenieure. Oberflächen anders.” Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Konradin Medien GmbH, 01.2006. pp. 46-55.

Fernando Márquez Cecilia, Richard Levene (Eds.): “El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 2002-2006. Monumento e Intimidad. The Monumental and the Intimate.” Vol. No. 129/130, Madrid, El Croquis, 2006.

Deyan Sudjic: “Herzog & de Meuron. The de Young Museum. Il Museo del terzo Millennio. The third Millennium Museum.” In: Stefano Boeri (Ed.). “Domus. Rivista Mensile di Architettura, Design, Arte e Informazione.” Vol. No. 886, Milan, Domus S.p.A., 11.2005. pp. 16-33.

Diana Ketcham: “The de Young in the 21st Century. A Museum by Herzog & de Meuron.” Edited by: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. San Francisco, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2005.

Herzog & de Meuron. Natural History.” Edited by: Philip Ursprung. Exh. Cat. “Herzog & de Meuron. Archaeology of the Mind.” Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal. 23 October 2002 – 6 April 2003. 2nd ed. Baden, Lars Müller, 2005.

Fernando Márquez Cecilia, Richard Levene (Eds.): “El Croquis. Herzog & de Meuron 1998-2002. La Naturaleza del Artificio. The Nature of Artifice.” Vol. No. 109/110, Madrid, El Croquis, 2002.

Location