God is in the Details, Ellworth Kelly is in the Courtyard: Sculpture Garden Opens at the SFMOMA

Over at the SF Appeal, I’ve written a brief review of the new sculpture garden at SFMOMA. Here, an excerpt from that post.

Afters three years of competition, construction, and even a little controversy, the new sculpture garden at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art made its public debut on May 10th, Mother’s Day. Designed by Jensen Architects with CMG Landscape Architecture, the new rooftop addition is almost Miesian in its elegant simplicity: glass and steel boxes surrounding an artfully composed open-air courtyard. In fact, the design specifically recalls Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. There too, a glass facade opens out onto a walled sculpture garden; a respite from the sparseness and propriety of the formal Modern Art Gallery. But here, instead of natural growth poking out above the surrounding walls as it does in Berlin, it’s the urban landscape of San Francisco high-rise towers. As has been noted by many a critic and visitor, the emotional effect of the garden is that of an urban oasis.

Indeed, from the new sculpture garden, the sounds of traffic merge with the whirrs and hums of nearby HVAC units into an almost ocean-like white noise. The occasional police siren rings through the air like a proxy gull call. Grab a latte from the Bay Area’s own Blue Bottle Coffee, provided by the kiosk prominently installed at the head of the museum’s addition (the high-design, local equivalent of a Starbucks inside Barnes & Noble?), and sit at one of the well-designed benches or cafe tables and forget your concerns and obligations to the surrounding city. What better way to spend an afternoon or a lunch hour than admiring work by noted sculptors like Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois, Barnett Newman, and Ellsworth Kelly?

Read the entire review at the SF Appeal.


Smithsonian Selects Adjaye for New Museum

British architect David Adjaye, in collaboration with The Freelon Group and David Brodie Bond Aedas, has been selected by the Smithsonian to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, to be located on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, will be Adjaye’s second in the the United States. His first, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, opened to much acclaim last year. The team beat out shortlisted firms Moshe Safdie, Foster & Partners, Diller Scofido & Renfro, Pei Cobb Freed, and Moody Noland + Antoine Predock. See the shortlisted entries at BD. Continue reading for an interior rendering and project model.


Razing Rome’s Ara Pacis Museum

Is there any hope for Rome to become a modern city? A Reuters article from this Sunday takes a look at that very question, using the Richard Meyer’s Ara Pacis Museum as its whipping boy. the Ara Pacis Museum is a reliquary for the Ara Pacis, an ancient monument to peace commissioned by Emperor Augustus himself. In 1995, when Meier’s design was commissioned by the then-progressive administration, the building was intended to lead The Eternal City into the new millenium. A tall order for any architect, but Meyer’s building is widely regarded as a spectacular failure — often referred to as a gas station. And now there are those who want to see the building destroyed. Most notable among the over-reactionaires is Rome’s current mayor Gianni Alemanno, who has s since tempered his statements. Even so, the Culture Minstry of Rome—let’s call it MiniCult—wants to alter the building so that it doesn’t obscure nearby churches. This, barely two years after it has opened. Here’s what Meier (by proxy of his website, that is) had to say about the project waaay back in 2005, a time before Facebook, Twitter, and Rome’s right-wing mayor:


SANAA in the Glass City

Known as “The Glass City,” my home town Toledo, Ohio will soon be home to the first US building completed by Tokyo architects SANAA. Set to open in early 2006, The Glass Pavilion will house the museum’s vast collection of art glass as well as the glassmaking studios for the associated University of Toledo College of Art. The Museum has studied daylight patterns to evaluate how light will enter the all-glass structure. A shading system will be erected to prevent interior spaces from overheating and to control light levels. I haven’ t yet seen any renderings of this feature. Everything that’s shown is pretty schematic, but I don’t think that this won’t be a repeat of Holl’s Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City.

The Glass Pavilion’s primary purpose is to provide an in-depth examination of the creative process by presenting the Museum’s glass collection within the context of all the visual arts. Within the Pavilion, artists and patrons will explore the creative process of glassmaking through the interpretation of the Museum’s collection and by emphasizing the relationship between the art created there and the masterpieces in the collection. Some museums focus on the history of glass, and a few others contextualize works in this media by integrating them within the history of art. The Glass Pavilion will be unique in featuring the close physical relationship between its glass collection, related works in other media, and its glassmaking facilities.

Corrugated plastic panels stand in for glass while the interior is finished.

Across the street from the Glass Pavilion sits the University building, designed by a pre-Bilbao Frank Gehry.

The new Museum sits in a wooded grove – but fear not – only dead trees were removed during construction. The glass in the mock up seems especially reflective, so seen from the outside, I’m looking forward to the effect created by ghosted images of trees overlaying the diluted images of the art and the visitors within.

A photo of a on-site full-scale mockup showing an exterior corner and rounded interior glass wall.

SANAA’s new pavilion sits only 1 block away from Toledo’s “Old West End” – an incredibly beautiful and historic (although somewhat run-down) residential district. Although I haven’t spent much time in The Glass City, I heard that there was some trouble from the residents of this area, who didn’t want such a *gasp* modern building near their stately manor. Somehow, the controversy was overcome and it looks like the outcome is going to be tremendous. I’ll keep you posted.

In other news, tomorrow, I will be officially welcome to return to New Orleans…at my own risk. No water, no gas, no power, no food, no leaving your zip code, and an enforced curfew between 6 pm and 8 am…sounds awesome. I forsee more state hopping in my future, and I’m still not really sure when I’ll be returning…