Aiming to reconnect the institution with its city, the San Francisco Museum of Art revealed its fancy plans for a new and transformative design for its building. Chosen in a private contest between thirty prospects, the international architectural firm Snøhetta presented its idea for an asymmetrical white rippled-façade building, which will be situated behind Mario Botta’s original museum structure. The expansion attempts to open up new avenues of circulation, and will promote more public engagement with the use of glass and outdoor terraces throughout the building.
Generally speaking, it simply is just a brand new and very expensive building. But for an institution of contemporary art, where the topics of architecture and design are included as part of the dialogue, this $550 million building reveals how design has become a vital component of our everyday lives. At every moment, we are surrounded by design. And our interactions with objects of daily use and buildings in our city have become an indirect engagement with a modern art form.
The new plans for SFMOMA’s expansion couldn’t have come at a better time. As I sit on MUNI during my morning commutes, every person within my range of sight has a slick Apple contraption in hand. It doesn’t matter if I’m bussing through the Marina, Castro, or Tenderloin—everyone has those streamlined white buds dangling from their ears, immersed in Steve Jobs’ world (we just live in it). Judging from the Dieter Rams retrospective currently on view at SFMOMA, the design aesthetic of Apple and Jobs comes from a precedence that is either unheard of or taken for granted.
The world’s first curatorial department of architecture and design was conceived in 1932 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Historically, A+D became relevant museum fodder during the emergence of the Industrial Revolution during the 19th century. Both have transformed over the last three hundred years, not only through buildings and structures, but also through objects (appliances, tools, cars, utensils) and graphics (typography, posters). Architecture and design do not exist independently from art. They are closely intertwined with contemporary art, assuming greater relevance with the advancement of technology and globalization in the 21st century.
With this in mind, is the new SFMOMA building going to affect you? Do the fields of architecture and design have a place in contemporary art institutions? Could your iPhone be the next Picasso? The answer to all of the above questions is, well, yes. Architecture and design have a very special way of fitting into the way we live. As stated by Naoto Fukasawa in Gary Hustwit’s Objectified: “Touching an object without thinking means that your fingers are interacting with something.”