Last summer unveiled in San Francisco the Museum of Modern Art (SF MoMa).
The following article was written by a dear friend, the Italian architect Brunella Angeli, and it was published on Icon‘s June issue. The museum’s architecture is really amazing!
The SFMOMA expansion rises ten floors on a long and narrow site in downtown San Francisco, just behind the Mario Botta’s building from 1995, the first museum’s purpose built home. The Mario Botta’s design has a very proud sense of symmetry and is formally predictable. The Snohetta’s expansion is more intuitive and requires a way of making choices as you move through. While in Mario Botta’s design the oculus in the main atrium would activate a sense of democracy through a direct relation between the sky and each visitor, in Snohetta’s expansion the stairs provide another way of thinking democratically. The stairs are exciting, bright to use and they are a wonderful journey.
There are very few infrastructure elements – no air vents, screws, nothing on the floors, no electric sockets around – emergency lighting is invisible. All of this has been sorted into the structure that surrounds the galleries. For instance the ceilings are shaped in order to unfold the ambient light for the galleries.
The facade is primarily an intuitive and aesthetic approach. Its ripples recall an odd piece of geology while its white and shiny colour, given by the sand from the Monteray Bay, was inspired by the foggy climate of San Francisco.
All windows run along the eastern facade of the building so all natural light comes from this direction.
The ceilings are deliberately oriented so that all artificial light comes from the same direction as the natural light. It’s a psychological trick that probably no one would ever notice but they’ll feel it because something feels good about it. Orientation is very important. The city gallery runs along the extent of all the gallery spaces on each floor. So no matter where you are in the building you can come to this spot which is almost the same in every floor and you’ll know where you are and you’ll know where you need to go.
Photos and text with courtesy of Brunella Angeli.