Once upon a few years ago, I was laying on a living room rug next to a bright boy and listening to OK Computer, while hashing out an excellent plan for homes with retractable ceilings and roofs. Amongst plans for rooftop hot tubs, teleportation enabled beds and a killer waterproof sound system, the plan entailed that a home with this feature would require plants. A lot of plants. And weather durable furniture, as more than likely, after retracting the roof once, the people inside would never want to shut it again. So, we were basically designing a garden with a floor and some walls, we guessed, for privacy. This amazing plan was the first thing that came to my mind when presented with SFMOMA's new Rooftop Garden/ Outdoor Gallery/ Sculpture Bazaar, highlighted with sky and San Francisco air. Hands waving in the air with excitement! SFMOMA, Jensen Architecture and Conger Moss Guillard Landscape Architecture have actually done it. Minus a few features, such as teleportation enabled beds. But maybe they're working on it.
The new Rooftop Garden, plays house atop the very useful, SFMOMA parking garage. The use of this rooftop brings 14,400 square feet to the museum, which is just a smart use of space if you ask me. When you come to the public opening, on "free Sunday", May 10th, please keep in mind that with a title of Rooftop "Garden", you might expect more of a, uh... garden. At least more of a garden than is actually there. But the fresh air above San Francisco's hustle and bustle noises is an excellent retreat nonetheless. Keep in mind too, that plants take time to be an amazing feature, aesthetically. The garden aspect of this rooftop garden is a fresh one, with excellent room to grow in the lava stoned walls surrounding.
So, head on up to the fifth floor and take a nice stroll over the new glass-and-steel enclosed bridge, adorned with a mellow, calming mural by local artist Rosanna Castrillo Diaz. Via this bridge is access to the Rooftop garden, but the design of the outdoor gallery's open-ness is evident more so when standing on the elevated fifth floor galleries. Just before embracing the partially enclosed garden, looking east onto the rooftop, through a nothing-but-glass wall, is an excellent vantage point to take in the beauty of greenery, curated with simple, thought provoking sculptures. The glass wall also provides the fifth floor galleries with natural light. Being all for natural light, this feature is a go with me, for sure.
Mostly, this Rooftop Garden was created to provide an open space for San Francisco people, like you and me, but also to give home to some of SFMOMA's fantastic, ever growing sculpture collection. The plan is to evolve the pieces, move things around and allow for fresh perspectives. This plan needed an umbrella for many a piece that will more than likely surface without weather protective qualities. For example, Louise Bourgeois' steel (ie: rust capable) sculpture, The Nest, is at home not under San Francisco sky, but in San Francisco's natural light, in the enclosed Rooftop Pavilion. Though I am not sure how at home The Nest is in front of Blue Bottle Coffee's coffee bar, which has been installed as one of the few permanent pieces in this new addition to the SFMOMA. Good coffee, to be sure, and local to boot. Yay, local refreshments? I suppose so.
In the actual outdoor of this outdoor gallery is a current, eclectic mix of both young and old generations of artists, as well as newly acquired pieces SFMOMA has been dying to share with the public. My favorite corner is the southwest corner, where an excellent energy is provided by Alexander Calder's punch of color, Big Crinkly.
Everything about this Rooftop Garden is pleasant, to be sure. And I can't wait to check it out on a San Francisco autumn day, with the plants taking their natural turn to amazing autumn colors. The only qualm here is that the folks who sparked the idea, designed the beautiful structure and gave birth to it, did not seem too stoked to talk about the green aspects of this new building. Green aspects are here, make no mistake. With 30% of the Rooftop Garden's energy being provided with Photovoltaic panels, natural ventilation being provided by the Pavilion's moveable glass walls, and the gorgeous grey lava stone being purchased locally in Sausalito. Though this is about the only information provided as far as the environmental thought given to the Rooftop Garden. A discussion on "green points" was not on the agenda for the fine Rooftop team of folks.
I understand that this is a museum of modern art, but is it not as much an art form to build a sustainable, environmentally savvy space, as it is to perfectly place the genius of Bourgeois? I think so. Hopefully the next step for the Rooftop Garden will be to educate the public on their forward thinking greening of art space. Well... that and rooftop hot tubs.
(*Images, from top to bottom: Mario Merz, The Lens of Rotterdam. Louise Bourgeois, The Nest. Alexander Calder, Big Crinkly. All photos courtesy of SFMOMA.)
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