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Curbed Inside: Contemporary Jewish Museum

[View of the interior gallery space]

Opening in June 2008, San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum will become the latest knot in the tallis of starchitect Daniel Liebeskind. The strikingly blue metal-clad structure, which has been slowly rising across from Yerba Beuna Park on Mission street, is based on the form of the Hebrew word l'chaim, meaning "to life." This new form has been integrated into the shell of the 1907 Jessie Street Power Substation, designed by Willis Polk during the City Beautiful movement. In Libeskind's own words, the Contemporary Jewish Museum "will transform the physical energy associated with the legacy of the Power Substation to the power of human communication and imagination." So...you know, there's that.

Moving on to matters of a less conceptual nature, Curbed had a chance to check out the interior of broken blue cube and we were pleasantly surprised with what we saw. Let's start with the lobby, and just for fun, we'll compare a few of these images to their original renderings.

[Model of the CJM]

Entering through the original 1907 facade, the floor and wall of the 2,500 sq ft lobby abstract the hebrew word "pardes," literally meaning orchard, but referring to the Kabbalistic practice of discovering four levels of meaning in each word.

A view of the lobby from the 2nd floor gallery.

In the second floor gallery, the structure of the original power station dramatically intersects with Libeskind's intervention.

See above.

If you didn't think there was enough symbolism in this building, rest easy. The slashes along the walls and ceiling of the multi-purpose room were drawn from 16th century maps charting routes to Jerusalem.

A view from the first floor gallery looking out towards Yerba Buena Lane. For hanging pictures cleanly, the Jewish Museum staff requested that one room be built with straight walls. You're looking at it.


Looking into the museum from the museum shop.


This is either the interior entrance to the museum shop or part of the set from a Tim Burton movie.

Still entirely full of scaffolding, the incredibly difficult to photograph "yud" space (re: big blue square thing) will be dedicated to music and performance. It will also be available for bar mitzvahs. Seriously. And in five short months, it will look a little something like this:

Although it's no Academy of Sciences, the Contemporary Jewish Museum is shaping up to be a nice addition to our beloved city's growing collection of Starchitecture. Final judgment will, of course, be reserved until everything is in place, but please feel free to vent or fawn in the comments.

· Snapped SF: Liebskind's Contemporary Jewish Museum [Curbed SF]
· CAMP vs. CJM, De Young, SF MOMA, CA Academy of Sciences [Curbed SF]

[All renderings taken from the Contemporary Jewish Museum website]

Contemporary Jewish Museum

736 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103