Abandoning CAMP

WRNS’s proposal for the Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio, which attempted to disturb the historic fabric as little as possible.
Courtesy WRNS

In an announcement Wednesday, Gap founder Donald Fisher said he was withdrawing his plan for a contemporary art museum in the Presidio’s Main Post. Ever since Fisher first unveiled the renderings of a luminous white box by New York’s Richard Gluckman in 2007, the plan has met with fierce opposition by preservationists, who have objected to a modern building on the historic parade grounds.

Despite several iterations of a new design by San Francisco’s WRNS Studio, which took over the commission from Gluckman and sunk much of the 100,000-square-foot museum below ground, while attempting to make the above-ground portion look like a glass pavilion, it wasn’t enough to quell the dissent.

Gluckman Mayner’s proposal, which mirrored the geometries of historic quarters along the Presidio parade ground.
Courtesy Gluckman Mayner

“It’s become clear over the course of the two years that the Main Post wasn’t going to be a good fit,” said Dana Polk, spokeswoman for the Presidio. The decision was influenced by a report issued in April by the National Park Service, which stated that “the new construction will dominate the head of the Main Parade and will negatively impact the setting, feeling, association and historic character of the property.”

According to Alex Tourk, the Fishers’ spokesman, the family is still considering three alternative sites in the Presidio—the Commissary (a building in Crissy Field that is the preferred location for a museum under the 2002 Presidio Trust management plan), an area south of Moraga Avenue (across the street from the current location) and Fort Scott (an open field in the northwest corner of the Presidio)—while also looking at other potential sites in the city and other municipalities. The project, budgeted at $150 million, was also going to include $10 million to turn the parade grounds into open space.

Several proposals including one exhibited at 3a Gallery (above, left) and  WRNS’s (above, right) sought to hide at least part of their mass below ground, to no avail.
Courtesy 3A Gallery, Wrns

“Mr. Fisher is passionate about the Presidio and leaving his collection as a legacy to the city,” said Tourk. He also said that the Fishers were “thrilled” with the work of WRNS Studio and had no plans to change architects.

The announcement came after the second round of public comments on the environmental impact report closed on June 1; the final report is scheduled for the fall. Other proposals for the 120-acre Main Post are continuing to move forward: a lodge along the eastern edge, the restoration of the historic movie theatre, and a new heritage center. And early this fall, another museum will be opening at the Main Post—the Walt Disney Family Museum, in a former army barracks building renovated by Page & Turnbull.

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