Wednesday, March 28, 2007


When I saw the photo posted by Justin Davidson, who is guest-blogging at The Rest is Noise, I thought the concert hall was being towed into port by a tug.

You think I'm nuts? Some very large objects can be towed, such as the Troll A submersible platform, for example.

Herzog & De Meuron are also responsible for the new De Young Museum in San Francisco, a building whose exterior I love and whose interior I consider a partial success. Some of the galleries are lovely. But the layout is confusing and I genuinely hate both the area where you pay the admission fee - it's no better than a movie-theater entrance, and a rather mean one at that - and the main lobby, a huge, cold, almost featureless space dominated by a huge and impersonal painting by Gerhard Richter. There's not much else to look at there, and I invariably find myself wanting to flee the space for the more hospitable side and upstairs galleries.

I think that would be the reaction of almost anyone who'd grown up with the great museums of New York City: I have been imprinted since childhood on the Beaux Arts splendor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, with their glorious, well-proportioned, and welcoming lobbies.

That's probably why I adored a different Herzog & De Meuron project, the Tate Modern, about which Justin expresses some queasiness. I understand why, and yet I'm glad the disused power station wasn't demolished. The turbine room at the Tate Modern is surely the biggest and grandest display space I'll ever be in. Not even the richest of the rich could build something that large; the turbine room enables the creation of art on a such a big scale it can't be exhibited anywhere else. I wish the good people of London would put the other abandoned power station to equally good use. (Hmm, maybe they are.)

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