Posts tagged with "Snohetta":
In 1995, as Mario Botta’s brand new San Francisco Museum of Art debuted, critic Pilar Viladas wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times, “San Francisco’s MOMA Moment: Mario Botta designed an interior that is sublime. But what happened to the rest of the new museum?” A similar question has been on architecture critics’ minds since Snøhetta’s $305 million expansion to Botta’s original opened to the press on April 28.
The original building was designed as an outpost for culture in a downtrodden area, a muscle man for the artistically curious. Now, billions are pouring into the area with a regional transit center, 5.4-acre elevated park, and new highrise neighborhood planned adjacent to the museum. And so, SFMOMA is evolving to reflect downtown San Francisco’s new inflection point. Interestingly, SFMOMA’s board of directors has done what those of other major national museums like New York City’s Whitney, the Museum of Modern Art, and Los Angeles’s LACMA have not: Drastically expand and reorganize gallery space without demolishing their existing museum or having to relocate to an entirely new building. Snøhetta was tasked with constructing a real building, whereas OMA and Michael Graves Architecture merely proposed similar ideas in their respective Whitney proposals decades ago. But if Viladas’s assertion that Botta’s original was ugly on the outside was proven ultimately false—San Franciscans seem to love the original SFMOMA through and through—Snøhetta’s expansion begs a new, complicated question: What happened to the rest of the old museum?
Snøhetta’s point of view in that regard is a standard one: Emphasize the existing through opposition. The 235,000-square-foot expansion grows out of the original structure’s backside and then rises ten stories above. By filling the narrow site to capacity and adding a new entrance along Howard Street, the architects greatly expanded the program’s public areas. Like in the original museum, the first three floors will be free to the public, a group that now includes all San Franciscans aged 18 and under.
This new entry features a maze of interlocking double height spaces, including a wood-clad amphitheater overlooking a pair of Richard Serra’s Sequence sculptures. The new amphitheater and Botta’s existing monumental rotunda meet at the second floor, creating “a living room for San Francisco,” as Craig Dykers, principal of Snøhetta, relayed during a guided tour. The proportions of this new “living room” are more intimate in nature than Botta’s proud entry. Snøhetta has retooled that existing entry by replacing the original oversize white switchback stairway with a low-slung wood one. Drawing comparisons to the firm’s prior Oslo Operahuset where the plane of the roof is sloped to allow pedestrian access from surrounding streets, Dykers said, “You feel ownership over a space when you can walk on the roof.” That’s a funny way to describe being on the second floor of a ten-story building, but what Snøhetta really did is bring the street indoors by luring up pedestrians from a variety of approaches.
The third floor contains dedicated photography galleries as well as a buzzing coffee shop. A large grow wall and outdoor Calder plaza flank this floor’s entry landing, creating a cool and shaded space teeming with growing things and art objects that grants museumgoers their first real glance at the museum’s icy east facade. From there up, gallery spaces stack neatly and predictably, joined for two floors by existing galleries in the Botta building.
The remaining floors above are accessed by a maze of single-run and increasingly narrow blonde wood staircases Dykers likens to those in a private home. The simultaneously jagged and swoopy perimeters of the staircases are offset by minimalist detailing. Treads, framed by Alvar Aalto-inspired hand rails, are embedded in the wall at the curved side only to pull away from it again in a reveal along the angular boundary. At your feet, singular lengths of stained planks mark the beginning and end of each stair run. “Everything your body touches is made of wood,” Lara Kaufman, project architect for the expansion, explained of the “floating,” ergonomic design of the galleries’ wood floors.
The galleries themselves are obsessive in their minimalist articulation. Dykers said outlets, return air grilles, and lighting subconsciously distract the art viewer and that the firm’s goal was to disappear these components in the gallery spaces. The team was also careful to position overhead lighting in specially calibrated vaulting that complements the galleries’ eastward-facing glazing.
The “contemporary” gallery on the seventh floor showcases recent work in a space with exposed ductwork and framing above the exhibition walls. The three floors above it are dedicated to staff offices.
Ultimately, Snøhetta’s team has made an unambiguous and honest effort to address the complicated calculus involved in adding onto a beloved art institution in a dense urban environment. As with the original structure, only time will tell how San Francisco takes to its new modern art museum.
Recently Gregory Hurcomb sat down with Craig Dykers and Nic Rader of internationally-based Snøhetta to discuss some of their latest projects on the boards in the San Francisco office. Given the new SFMOMA, Hurcomb wanted to consider how they were moving forward with new and dynamic proposals that help rethink architecture’s relationship with landscape, nature, the public, and sustainability. As the firm often looks to engage the user in compelling ways through the use of vast spaces located somewhere between landscape and architecture, how do they work to create these places and think about the ever-evolving hand of the designer in relationship to the world’s ever-shifting environment.
The Architect’s Newspaper: Is there something new on the boards here in San Francisco?
Nicolas Rader: We have a project on the corner of Market Street and Van Ness, right near the office, in the heart of the downtown area. We’re working with a great client called Build, Inc., who does a lot of work and is very well respected in San Francisco. It’s a very ambitious project, a 40-story condominium tower, but to us, the most interesting part is the proposal to close down part of Oak Street where it meets Van Ness to create a new public plaza. Of course, the client has an interest in the tower, but they also really want to improve the neighborhood as a whole. It will provide an amenity that is really fantastic for the city overall.
Is the general plan to make it more pedestrianized?
NR: Yes, more pedestrianized. There will be some artistic wind canopies in the plaza as well. The intersection is incredibly windy and can be so strong that it often knocks people over. We’re currently working with engineers to figure out the structural optimization for those.
How would you say the firm approaches the idea of land and the natural? For the project here in San Francisco, we could consider the artistic wind canopies and look at wind as a natural phenomenon pushing against us. How does that connect to your design process?
Craig Dykers: Many people misunderstand our relationship with landscape. I think many people naturally assume that our work is to merge things together, to merge architecture and landscape and vice-versa. While that does occur on some projects, there are other projects where merging is the opposite of what we want to do. Sometimes you want to push back against nature. The more important issue is having a dialogue, and that is where we always begin. We always want to find out what the relationship of a condition is to a project. That could mean merging things, or it could mean ignoring them or to make a point, just so long as the dialogue exists. In that sense there is a character of understanding the invisible as well as the visible. Some of the context might be things that you can’t see: cultural context, psychological context, driven by things beyond the nature of sight, or the place itself. In addition, we do quite a good deal of branding and graphic design work as well. With identity creation, we also like to get physical, so that even our branding work very directly connects you to a place. For example, we most recently designed Norway’s new bank notes, which speak to the Norwegian coastal landscape.
Building on the connection between architecture and landscape, what would you say is your design approach? Is it cultural from the beginning, or is it more specific to the job and the client?
CD: We don’t necessarily think of ourselves as tailors but there is a certain degree of that involved. Our projects often begin with conversations about what people might find valuable. Sometimes those conversations are internal among the design team; sometimes they are external. We often go out and talk to people in the community surrounding the site. We’ve begun many projects by interviewing people on the street. It’s always a little embarrassing to walk up to complete strangers and ask them to speak into a microphone when you’re not a TV or media journalist, but it’s important for us to hear what they have to say. We also work closely with specialists to hear what they think and we try to create something that is built around all of those understandings. Now that doesn’t mean that if someone says this we say the same thing back. We’re not just a sponge. We also have our own ideas and ways of seeing things. And that is the core of how a project begins: can we create something that is surprising and familiar at the same time?
NR: We often approach a project with questions, even if we think we know the answers. Certainly, we contribute some answers but we gather as much information from others as we can just to get a more holistic view. Then, we apply critical filters to it to better understand the best solution.
CD: Many architects today rely on a form of abstraction in their research. Mapping technologies and other ways of analyzing information are very interesting to us. But our work is always grounded in a more intuitive understanding, and a less abstract way of manipulating knowledge.
What does sustainability mean to the firm?
CD: Well, there are many types of sustainability: economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, environmental sustainability, and one of the things that we like to talk about is intellectual sustainability. How can we expect to manage nature if we can’t manage human nature? Human nature, emotions, and perspectives are all somewhat out of our control. You just have to pick up the newspaper to see all of the rivalries and polarity that exists in the world. Our work tries to create a sense of intellectual capacity through socialization. A kind of social interaction that builds awareness that will help people commit to other, more direct forms of sustainability, like environmental sustainability.
NR: In a way, I often think it’s sort of dangerous even to talk about sustainability because it’s something that should be inherent in practice and in discourse. By calling it out as something special or something separate assumes that some people choose to ignore it, which in itself is a problem. My approach is a little bit different because I don’t sit here and talk about sustainability. I wouldn’t consider myself ‘green’, or even talk about intellectual sustainability, but it’s something that I try to integrate into the way that I think and practice.
Well I bring it up mainly because I think because it is a somewhat contentious word these days, and possibly always, because there is a movement that is associated with “green” architecture. One of the noteworthy aspects about Snøhetta for me is an inherent ecological awareness and a certain connection to the earth in your projects.
NR: What I appreciate about our work and our approach is that we’re not known as “sustainability architects” or “sustainability designers.” It’s embedded so deeply into our design that there is an assumption—and a genuinely accurate assumption—that it’s just there.
CD: What you’re saying is really important. I think many people who are working with this mindset have sort of marginalized themselves. They’ve said, well, we’re not like those people over there, we’re like these people over here, and you’re either one of us or one of them. And I don’t think that’s healthy.
In some regards perhaps it is too isolationist of a stance. We’ve created a camp or a group and we’re just over there talking amongst ourselves with this singular set of concerns, these particular thoughts and ideas.
CD: And then the conversation becomes, “if it doesn’t look environmentally sustainable then it can’t possibly be,” or “if it looks good then it can’t possibly be environmentally sustainable.” Or more often, it goes in the other direction, where someone says it’s ugly, therefore it must be environmentally friendly. And on that note, I’d like to consider the notion of interactivity and the promotion of diversity in architecture. I think it does have a very large impact eventually on how we function as a society in dealing with very large complex issues, like the environmental conditions of the earth we live on. You won’t be able to solve it one building at a time, although that helps. But you also have to create a condition where people start to think differently about who they are when they walk through a city, or when they walk into a building. They are thinking about their place in this wider world that we all live in…and that is where intellectual sustainability supports environmental sustainability.
Design Week Portland kicked off Sunday, April 17, and the Center for Architecture in Portland, Oregon, was on the frontline with the exhibit Snøhetta: People, Process, Projects. Running until June 30, architecture and design firm Snøhetta compiled the material and designed the exhibition that serves as a retrospective and foretells of things to come. Originally shown in Copenhagen, this is the firm’s first extensive exhibition in the United States.
Previously on display last summer in Copenhagen, the exhibition highlights the firm’s work in Oregon on two large wall panels: The James Beard Public Market in Portland and the Willamette Falls Riverwalk in Oregon City. A fair portion of the exhibition covers the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art with a site model, large-scale facade study, detail drawings, and several renderings—a variety that feeds an architect’s curiosity. The breakthrough Alexandria Library in Egypt and the Norwegian National Opera are included, as well as several net-positive energy buildings and more libraries that are underway in Philadelphia and Far Rockaway, Queens.
The exhibition excels at displaying Snøhetta’s process. A wall graphic shows the diversity of office locations and staff, and several panels comprise the communal table that represents the center of the office—both in practice and in headquarters—in Oslo, Norway. But the study models, material samples, and inspirational pieces give more insight into the firm than could renderings, which are just as flat here as in any publication or on any screen.
Scale models convey context, form, and texture—the last especially in the study for the Vulkan Beehives installed in Norway. They’re really just a second skin wrapping a traditional apiary, but they’re a beautiful way to bring attention to a vital function of our ecosystem. Mock-ups of glass frits provide support for display panels of their respective projects. White boards offer areas for visitors to comment on the James Beard Public Market…and, perhaps unintentionally, other projects. All are aspects that make the physical display more than a just a catalogue made large—the exhibition is an interactive process.
A really cool aspect of the exhibition is the lounge that was created in the reception area. Angular seating lines one wall, and a low table with seating provides a place to flip through a number of Snøhetta’s publications, chat with friends, or take a break from the jam-packed events during Design Week. Hopefully it remains as a future amenity.
San Franciscans have already marked their calendars for the May 14 opening of in downtown San Francisco. The 1995 striated-brick building is being greatly expanded and reorganized in a scheme that triples the museum’s exhibition space while adding a new main entry along Howard Street. The project was developed as a public-private partnership with the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection, which agreed to display works from its private collection at SFMOMA for the next 100 years.
The 10-story, 235,000-square-foot expansion by the Norwegian firm is set back from the Botta structure, adding a funny hat to an already funnily hatted building. Craig Dykers, co-founding partner of Snøhetta, said in a statement that he wanted the new addition to “rise like a continuation of the [original building’s] terraces, even while offering a new image that reflects the Bay Area’s natural setting.” New and old meet at a two-foot-wide seismic joint separating the two structures so that in the event of California’s next “Big One,” each building will be able to jostle independently, minimizing damage.
The new, rectangular structure meets the narrower Botta building along an entire facade, running across the block’s full width, from Minna Street to Howard. The latter entrance is flanked by a two-story grow wall containing 16,000 plants that runs along an interior courtyard resulting from the main building’s stepped facade. Maple-surface amphitheater seating and Richard Serra’s monumental Sequence sculpture are located on the ground floor and adjacent to this courtyard. These features help pull the public into the museum’s first two floors, which will be free to all.
The addition’s facade is clad in 700 custom fiberglass reinforced polymer (FRP) panels that project from the curtain wall. These panels are rumpled horizontally, creating an articulated facade that folds in and out of the ascending mass. Panels incorporate silicate crystals taken from nearby Monterey Bay in order to dapple light along this east-facing exposure.
The remaining entrance along Third Street leads to the original building’s giant, oculus-topped atrium. Here, Botta’s grand staircase, no longer up to code, has been completely removed, allowing the oculus to fill the massive hall with light. This begs the question: with the impending opening of what will be the country’s biggest modern art museum, is it morning in San Francisco?