SF MOMA opens rooftop garden

May 7, 2009 6:36:02 PM PDT
The rooftop garden at the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art is built on top of an eight-story parking garage. It has been in the planning stages for 20 years.

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The museum board got the $18 million to build it and raised another $6 million for endowment. All of this happened before the economic downturn, so everything is paid for. They wouldn't be able to do it today.

The outdoor garden and overlook gallery are filled with big sculpture pieces, which are very heavy. They had to use cranes to lift them nine stories to the top. It's not something they will do with any frequency so the current large pieces outside will be there into the new year.

The great thing is you can walk around these works. It makes the sculpture a three dimension experience. A weathering steel piece by Ellsworth Kelly created in 1973 backs up to the art deco building once owned by Pac Bell.

The garden is surrounded by an overlook gallery and a pavilion.

A local architect, Mark Jensen, won the bid to design the garden. He wanted to make it simple, open, drawing the eye to the surrounding high rises.

"You see it in the context of San Francisco's great architecture," says Neal Benezra, the SF MOMA director.

"It's an oasis in the city. It's a garden in the sky," says architect Mark Jensen. "Whereas the original building is solid and monumental, we wanted this to be almost the opposite. Completely open to the sky, very transparent, very light."

There is a unique view of the city skyline from the walkway to the garden. And at night the twinkling lights from the buildings cast an impressive contrast.

Speaking of the walkway, it's not attached to the old museum or this new building. It is suspended on two pilings on either end. But no, you won't sway if you walk there. The pavilion on the top also has what is apparently San Francisco's hottest product these days, another outlet of blue bottle coffee.

"It's very important for an institution in the city to expand and broaden itself. I think it sends good signals for the future," says Benezra.

The free rooftop opening is Mother's day.

www.sfmoma.org

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