Hi. Nope, not dead.
A while ago I finally had occasion to visit the new De Young Museum in San Francisco. I remember being excited when the final design was approved; the sketches depicted a big brown carapace of a building, brutal and shapely, not as accepting and inclusive of us humans as you might wish for a publically-funded museum to be, but pretty exciting as a piece of art on its own terms.
Getting there was another story. While rounding the corner to see it for the first time was pretty great, with palm trees and the observation tower combining for a nice Jurassic Park the-natives-will-soon-kill-us-on-their-altar effect, it became clear as we approached the front door that the building in the sketches wasn’t the building in front of me.
The second-skin thing, where the outer bronzed shell shows the real wall behind it through pockmarks and corrugations, didn’t actually work at that scale. It was too tight and controlled, too much like a simple half-tone over a basic, boring modern building. The looming arms over the outdoor courtyard worked pretty nicely, as did the tower on the right, but none of the actual museum had that same sense of drama and danger.
All that is a shame, but what really pissed me off was the main signage, which you get a glimpse of here:
Helvetica? Freaking Helvetica? In giant letters on the front wall for all time? Way to cut off a building’s balls. I mean, if you’re going to be big, square and elitist, at least use a nice imperialist serif, preferably in all caps. You know, commit to the shit.