Essay on The de Young Museum in San Francisco by Jacques Herzog

The de Young Museum in San Francisco, which is designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, is one of the unique buildings of postmodern architecture. The material, texture and the building’s construction are effectively used to impress the visitors. The de Young Museum represents American art from the 17th century to 21st centuries, including international contemporary art from all parts of the world, textiles, and costumes. Although the building of the de Young Museum has a simple construction, its copper skin and huge Hamon Tower are the major peculiarities of the museum. The building is located in the Golden Gate Park which creates a special atmosphere. The entire exterior of the museum is represented by the copper clad in 15,154.2 m2. The material is chosen to harmonize with the surrounding trees and courtyards. It is interesting to note that the building of the museum is clad with unique variably perforated and specially dimpled copper plates. It is expected that the patina of the copper plates will slowly change its color. The observation tower of the museum is about 44 m. It gives an opportunity to enjoy the view of Golden Gate, Marin Headlands and surrounding territory. The landscape is represented by 344 trees and 69 historic boulders. Ten Piazzoni’s murals can be found on permanent display at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Andy Goldsworthy’ Faultline can be found in the entrance courtyard of the museum. This specific piece consists of a number of carefully placed boulders and paving stones and boulders which were brought from the quarry in England.

The architecture of the de Young Museum is considered to be postmodern because it has the following characteristics: non-traditional combination of colors and material, modern ornament design. According to Cantor, Postmodernism has several characteristics, which include nostalgic references to precedents, and an informed questioning of the past, which are defined as “nostalgic recapitulations”. These characteristics can be referred to the new de Young Museum that occupies practically the same site as its predecessor. As Postmodernism combines the modern forms and the forms from the past, and the tendencies which refer to “fabulism and fantasy”, the landscape design of the de Young Museum includes such historic elements taken from the old de Young as the magnificent sphinx sculptures and the Pool of Enchantment, the original palm trees and sandstone.  It is known that the key ideas of Postmodernism are focused on new ideas and trends. According to Venturi, the architecture of modernism is “stale and rigid”, while postmodernism offers “a way out” (30). He pays special attention to the role of symbolism within the buildings of Postmodernist architecture. According to Dempsey, Postmodernism is a rediscovery of ornamentation, color and symbolic connections (67). The de Young Museum represents some symbolic connections with the past and includes new ornaments and colors. The combination of copper, glass, copper panels and embossings create uniqueness of structure (De Young). Taking the above mentioned characteristics into consideration, it is possible to conclude that the de Young Museum is a true example of Postmodernism.

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