Libeskind’s polygon reshapes the South of Market skyline.
"I’ve built several museums dealing with the darkness of history, with man’s inhumanity to man," says Daniel Libeskind, architect of the new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. "Here, we’ll be speaking with joy." Libeskind took inspiration from the Hebrew toast l’chaim (to life), basing his design in part on the shape of its letters. His building resembles a shimmering blue cube tilted onto one corner.
The $47.5 million museum, opening June 8, incorporates a 1907 brick power station off Mission Street across from Yerba Buena Gardens. "I have an ‘aha!’ moment every time I walk in," says Director Connie Wolf, standing in one of the three galleries under a peaked, 60-foot ceiling glittering with 36 diamond-shaped skylights. "We’re creating a place for dialogue and discussions—recognizing the past but preparing for the future."
With no permanent collection, the museum will mount exhibits and host temporary exhibits on culture, history, art, and ideas. It opens with three: In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis, including pieces from Roman-era mosaics to new multimedia works; From The New Yorker to Shrek: The Art of William Steig; and John Zorn Presents the Aleph-Bet Project, a sound installation by the MacArthur Fellow with contributions by Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed. (415) 655-7800, www.thecjm.
Photography by Bruce Damonte
This article was first published in May 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information