Snøhetta in San Francisco

A MoMA on the West Coast


Popular imagination tends to make fun of ‘weird’ buildings, but also often ends up fascinated with them. In the case of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion by the American office of Snøhetta, it’s not clear if the mockery will turn into fascination, but from epithets that the building has been receiving (anything from ‘iceberg’ to ‘Apple store’ to ‘meringue’…), it doesn’t seem so. The shape of the building – with its flashy organicism, its wrinkled skin, and its arbitrary openings – is difficult to understand beyond the metaphor that allegedly justifies the white color of the facade’s fiberglass panels: the morning mist of San Francisco Bay. In any case it is excessive in size (16,000 square meters, almost like the New York MoMA and the Whitney combined), in cost (261 million euros), and above all in its collections: thousands of artworks of which only some 600 will be put on display, including pieces by Alexander Calder, Frida Kahlo, Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Andy Warhol, or the inevitable Jeff Koons. To this we add a feature which is foreign to European eyes: the works come from philanthropists sharing their wealth, patrons ‘giving back’ to the community and society. In the SFMOMA case the figures are eloquent: in the past six years the museum has received nothing short of 3,000 works from some 230 donors, including 1,100 objects from the private collection of Doris and Donald Fisher, proprietors of the clothing and accessories retailer GAP and principal promoters of this idiosyncratic building by Snøhetta.

Included Tags: