Towering triumph

With the stunning de Young Museum, San Francisco gains a brilliant work of modern architecture ― and some welcome attention.

Wilsey Court

Wilsey Court

Joe Fletcher

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As you approach the museum on an autumn day, it does not sparkle from afar like a foil-wrapped piece of Frank Gehry eye candy. Variously smooth, embossed, dimpled, and perforated, its copper skin mimics light dappling through trees. As the tower emerges from foliage and the building comes into view, the calm mass appears rooted to the landscape: It might have been here for a month or a century.

The thousand-plus acres that make up San Francisco's Golden Gate Park include a Victorian greenhouse, a Dutch windmill, a Japanese tea garden, and a bison paddock. What the park did not have was any groundbreaking modern architecture―until last month, with the opening of the new de Young Museum, designed by renowned architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron.


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