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Curbed Inside Update: The Contemporary Jewish Museum Full Reveal

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In Curbed Inside, we take a peek at the latest developments, whether architectural or residential. Project on tap? Harness the power of viral marketing, and drop a line.

Perhaps all of this Obamarama "hope" rhetoric has colored our general disposition as of late, but we must say that our preview of the Libeskind-designed Contemporary Jewish Museum left us with just that— a distinct feeling of hope. Daniel Libeskind's buildings never fail to stir conversation—and even controversy—as his concept-heavy designs don't always translate smoothly into "civilian" life (the architect's perpetual challenge, no doubt). Libeskind was commissioned to design the new Contemporary Jewish Museum, an adaptive reuse of the Jessie Street PG&E Power Substation, after realizing the Denver Art Museum, his first project to be built in the United States. In traversing the new space— especially the main gallery on the second floor— we felt like Libeskind took more than a few notes from his experience with the DAM; the building was heavily criticized as being physically unconducive to hanging art work (not difficult to imagine given his propensity for angles of the anything-but-90-degree variety). Major problem, no? Here in San Francisco, however, we found a different story.

Conceptually speaking, Libeskind was inspired by the Hebrew phrase "L'Chiam," (To Life), and based his design on the two symbolic Hebrew letters of "chai"— the "chet" and "yud." The "yud" gallery (see the photogallery) is most reflective of this concept.

A variety of spaces, some skewed wildly and some less so were by and large conducive to their intended purposes (though we're a little fearful for the special events/ "yud" gallery, beautifully lit as it is); we saw a few superfluous nooks and an angle or two (or twelve) too many in spots, but at the risk of repeating ourselves— because we are, in fact, repeating ourselves) the second floor gallery is one of the better (or at least, more pleasant— large-scale spaces we've seen in San Francisco. (However, we're withholding our final judgment until we see how the space actually works once objects are installed— Libeskind's Berlin effort is a near disaster on that front, we think.)

Hope, people. Libeskind's building, Piano's CA Academy of Sciences— San Francisco just may be on an architectural upswing after all (if Gluckman Mayner behave themselves in the Presidio, of course).

The Facts:

· FACT: The building was designed by Daniel Libeskind; WRNS Studio Architectural Resources Group manned the preservation front.

· FACT: The museum contains 63,000 gross square feet of space; Exhibitions and Special Events galleries: 11,700 sq. ft. total; Education Center and gallery: 3,500k sq. ft. total; Grand Lobby: 2,500 sq. ft.; Multipurpose room: 3,300 sq. ft.; Museum Store: 2,000 sq. ft; Cafe: 2,100 sq. ft.

· FACT: The opening of the CJM marks the first time the PG&E substation will be accessible to the public in over one hundred years.

· FACT: Over 3,000 blue plates were installed on the outside. No, they will not fade or chalk given that no dyes or pigments were used to create the color. Instead, a procedure called "interface coating" was used to achieve their blue hue. Frank Gehry, take note: the cross-hatching of the panels is said to reduce glare on the building.
· The Contemporary Jewish Museum [website]
· Curbed Inside: Contemporary Jewish Museum [Curbed SF]
· CurbedWire: Contemporary Jewish Museum Opening Revealed [Curbed SF]

[Please note: Many more FACTS are to be found beneath each picture in the photogallery. Enjoy.]

Contemporary Jewish Museum

736 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103