10 December 2011

SFMOMA's expansion

I read that the expansion of SFMOMA will now include removing the dark stairway that dominates the Mario Botta-designed existing lobby. Botta designed a bank in Basel - I saw it by accident once while visiting that city - that is essentially the twin of SFMOMA. That's a tactic he shares with Arata Isozaki, who relentlessly exploits a formal move over a series of projects until he grows tired of it.* It's harder in the age of maximal documentation to get away with this kind of replication. The joke with Botta was his desire to realize the conceit of placing a ring of trees high up above the entry to these buildings. I think the Basel bank does this, but I'm not sure. He proposed it for SFMOMA, but it was turned down. (My friend Andrew Rabeneck, a former editor of AD in its heyday, called this, "Pussy in the Sky." He may have been quoting someone else.) I've always had mixed feelings about the Botta museum. It was taken up by Allan Temko, and Botta was briefly the man of the hour, but his moment has faded. In scale, it's good - it fits well in an odd context. Now that it's flanked by the dreadful W Hotel, it looks even better by comparison. Yet I wonder if SFMOMA shouldn't bite the bullet and let Snohetta have at it - redesign the entire building. They're clearly up to it. The result could be amazing.

*: Isozaki is much more formally inventive than Botta, and his variations are sharper.