Archive for October, 2009

de Young Museum, SF: welcome, sort of

October 20, 2009

The de Young Museum in San Francisco is currently hosting a traveling Tut exhibition. We haven’t seen the exhibition, so we can’t comment on that. We were struck by one contrast, however. Here’s the de Young admissions and ticketing desk:

deyoung admissions desk

It’s pretty enough, with the windows and greenery behind it, but not exactly information-rich. Just taking it in at a glance, it’s unclear exactly where you’re supposed to stand, where you go if you’re a member instead of the general public, and what you pay.


Not far away in the same lobby is the temporary admissions desk that is dedicated to the Tut exhibition:

deyoung tut desk

It’s not as good on esthetics, but in terms of function, it’s much more direct and useful. It’s quite clear where you’re supposed to stand and what your various payment options are. The part of the desk that’s lower than the rest is set aside for will-call. Even the dark color seems more substantial and authoritative than the de Young desk’s beige color scheme. Not being back-lit by windows, it also appears more solid. Apparently, whoever put together the Tut show did some research on the semiotics of admissions desks.


Calif. Academy of Sciences: False Entrance

October 7, 2009

The California Academy of Sciences building in San Francisco has two entrances. There’s the public entrance on northwest side, fronting on the museum concourse and facing the De Young Museum:

Academy entrance


On the opposite, southeast side, fronting Middle Drive, there’s another entrance, which is reached by crossing a pedestrian bridge:

academy staff entrance 1

A casual passerby — or someone who remembers the old Academy of Sciences building — might well assume that this is a public entrance as well. Everything about it says, “come in here.” 

Wrong. It’s for employees only. 

academy staff entrance closeup

I’m sure it’s pleasant for the staff to have a well-designed (hopefully), light-filled space in which to work, but to me this off-limits entry seems like a wasted opportunity to create another means for visitors to get into the museum. On busy days, when the lines snake around the front of the building, a second entrance would relieve congestion considerably. And this entrance is deceptive in its visual attractiveness: we pass by here frequently and observe visitors start down the pedestrian bridge and then turn back. 

You could enter the old Academy from both sides, so why not the new one?