de Young Museum, San Francisco: It never rains … oh, wait a minute

When you visit the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and walk out of the cafe onto the terrace that fronts on the sculpture garden, on many days you will enter not the fresh open air but a plastic-enclosed, temporary-looking space.

It’s full of design features that say “added as an afterthought,” such as this elegant sand barrel:

deyoung sand barrel

Step out of the plastic enclosure into the sculpture garden and you will see the full expanse of this kludgy plastic addition to the would-be elegant Herzog & de Meuron building.

deyoung plastic pavillion outside

Why is this is party tent necessary? My guess is that since the building opened in 2005, any number of visitors have complained that the outside terrace is cold, windy, and wet. It’s exposed to the west, where the prevailing weather comes from just about every day of the year. In San Francisco, that weather often brings a chill wind, fog, and in winter, rain.  

Rain? But there’s a huge, brutalist overhang running along the entire side of the building to take shelter under, right?

deyoung overhang

Wrong! Look up, and you’ll see that the overhang is totally porous…

deyoung porous overhang

…rendering it useless as a functional architectural element for about four to six months a year, namely late fall, winter, and early spring, when (most years) it rains frequently and profusely. This feature of San Francisco’s Mediterranean climate is extremely well-known, as are the steady west wind and frequent fog. Except perhaps to Herzog & de Meuron.


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3 Responses to “de Young Museum, San Francisco: It never rains … oh, wait a minute”

  1. Waz Says:

    I’m renting the de Young cafe and sculpture garden for my wedding in July 2010, and I was not happy to learn that they plan on keeping that plastic tent up on the cafe terrace all through the summer. It doesn’t rain during the summer. San Francisco’s summers are cool and slightly foggy, but having a tent there is just absurd. What’s even more absurd is how that tent doesn’t just have openings, but it actually has DOORS attached to it. Can’t wait to have a nice, humid dance floor enclosed by a tacky, plastic tent on my wedding day.

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