Postmodernism was a 20th century style and concept that was followed in art and architecture. The ideologies were new and fresh and were at an entirely different perspective of everything in the art and architecture field of study. They focused more on aesthetic principles and distinctive, nostalgic references of the past. The postmodern movement emerged as a reaction to the Modernist movement in architecture.
Denise Scott Brown, an architect and urban planner and Robert Venturi, an architectural theorist introduced the movement through the book, Learning from Las Vegas. In the book, the authors talk about how important the fa?§ade of a building is and the impact it makes in its surrounding. The importance of incorporating historical elements in design is also very much appreciated. The authors encourage the use of unusual materials and historical allusions in the postmodern buildings. The use of fragmentation and modulations are also good reasons why the building turns out to be so interesting to look at and be in. All these postmodern features of how a building can be designed are laid out as an opposition to the principles of modernism.
Postmodern architecture encourages the architects to embrace the past and create new and futuristic buildings that have a more deeper meaning than just geometric shapes and straight lines like in the modern architecture style.
The notable characteristics of postmodernism in architecture are^
I. Nostalgic references to the past
II. Love of themes
III. Symbolic connections
V. Lack of hierarchy in the way that the spaces unfold
VII. Historic have roots to the past
VIII. A rediscovery of ornament and color
IX. Metaphorical the works have a deeper or more spiritual meaning
X. Tendencies towards fabulism and fantasy
The de Young Museum in the Golden Gate Park, San Francisco is a building constructed in the postmodern style of architecture. The building’s many features, the story behind it and the design captivate the characteristics of postmodernism.
The old de Young museum was an Egyptian revival structure. It was designated as a museum for the people of San Francisco and it became very popular due to the collection of art it housed. It was then damaged by the 1906 earthquake and was under repair for a year and half before it opened its doors to the public again. In 1989, the de Young museum underwent severe structural damage due to the Loma Prieta earthquake.
After extensive research and input, the decision was made to reconstruct the old museum with a public funding campaign, and today we have one of the most popular museums of the United States, the new de Young museum. It is designed by the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron. The best thing about the new museum is how the architects have managed to retain the essence of the old de Young.
The museum has been built to merge in with the landscape and not to stand out. The materials used are natural and are copper, stone, glass and wood. The museum blends into its surroundings so seamlessly.
The architects’ idea for the exterior of the building was to recreate how sunlight filters through the trees in the park and they did just that. They used copper panels for the fa?§ade of the building. The panels were all cut and embossed to create the effect of the building merging in with its vast background of greenery. The copper panels oxidize over the years, turning green. This effect is called the patina. This idea is metaphorical and has a more deeper meaning than what it appears to be at first. It is also a rediscovery of color.
The new de Young museum has a larger gallery space and a taller tower in comparison to the old de Young museum, but the overall footprint of the building has been reduced by 88,000 square feet. Thus, the green space was returned to the Golden Gate park.
In the landscape surrounding the building, one of the most notable features is the Pool of Enchantment. It has mythological characters in the pool that have a symbolic representation. It welcomes the visitors and reminds them of the old museum.
The landscape also features a Sculpture Garden that has a sculpture by Henry Moore. The sculpture is a human figure with abstract forms. The sculpture is made with bronze and fits well in the landscape because of its color and its soft features and rounded shape. It has a sense of ambiguity yet finds its place in the landscape.
The other intriguing sculpture in the landscape of the museum is Artificial Rock by Zhan Wang. The material used on the sculpture is called the scholars’ rock. But the artist has transformed this traditional form to create a reflective, postmodern, glossy and shiny looking surface and creates a whole new meaning. This sculpture is very historic in nature as the artist has shared his traditional and highly cultural Chinese upbringing with a western audience.
The Children’s garden invites visitors from the walkway to the museum. The sphinxes and the original Dore Vase that was once in front of the original de Young museum in the Egyptian Revival style are now placed in the eastern walkway.
Fern and Eucalyptus courts within the de Young museum remind us that nature not only surrounds the building, but is integrated within it as well. The Fern court offers a visual extension and can be viewed through the glass wall beside the stairs that rise. The Eucalyptus court is atop the stairs and parallel to the galleries and serves as a reminder that we are well within nature’s limits.
On the whole, the landscape design of the new de Young museum integrates historic elements from the old de Young museum the sphinx sculptures, the Pool of Enchantment and the original palm trees from the site. Other plants and materials relevant to the site have also been used, thus creating a new museum that blends into the park’s natural background. Nature has been integrated in every possibility in the building’s architecture and clearly plays a major role in the building design.
Andy Goldsworthy’s Drawn Stone, commonly known as the Faultline in the museum was so realistic. I observed a crack that was running through the entrance courtyard and through the stones in the courtyard. It reminds the visitors of the earthquake that happened in the past and destroyed the old de Young museum. It also shows us that nature is the greatest of all. It is unbelievable that the cracks in the stone and the floor are staged by the artist to create a meaningful work of art. This space is themed, historic and has symbolic value as well.
The Wilsey court was kind of the center of the museum and it was an expansive space with a grand staircase that leads to the galleries on the next floor. On one wall, Gerhard Richter’s Strontium is on the entire wall. It is very large and forms a large square on the rectangular wall measuring 31′-0 x 31′-0. The artwork comprises of photographs from a newspaper and has been mounted on an aluminum frame. The founder of the museum, Michael H. de Young was also the founder of the San Francisco Chronicle, a newspaper company. This gives the artwork a metaphoric and historic identity. It has so much value and gently reminds the visitors of the founder of the museum, Michael H de Young.
The Piazzoni Murals room houses two murals by the artist Gottardo Piazzoni The Sea and The Land. These murals span the entire room and are placed on opposite walls. They are minimalistic and very modern. The murals were large in scale and are historically very important. They were conserved, and the room was specially designed to house these murals.
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