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Building: de Young Museum

Location: 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

Completion: October 2005

Client: de Young Museum
Primary Designers: Herzog & de Meuron
Principal Architects: Fong & Chan Architects
Landscape Architects: Hood Design

Herzog & de Meuron Team:
Project Architect: Ascan Mergenthaler
Project Manager: Jayne Barlow
Fong & Chan Team:
Project Manager: Nuno Lopes
General Contractor: Swinerton Builders
Project Manager: Mike Strong
Structural Engineers: Rutherford & Chekene
MEP: Ove Arup Group and Partners


The original de Young Museum was founded in 1906 by Michael de Young with the goal of putting San Francisco on the financial map [2]. This museum stood for nearly one hundred year before an earthquake in 1989 and numerous additions eventually made the building unsightly and uninhabitable.

Herzog and de Meuron were commissioned to build a replacement museum, but were a controversial pick because many people thought they were too young, dramatic, or unknown [2]. Although doubted, Herzog and de Meuron created a building that was appreciated for its architectural value, but did not overwhelm the site.

Jacques Herzog understood that the building needed to fit into the landscape, but the design team also wanted a building that was always changing [3]. The copper skin of the de Young is intentionally manipulated with some smooth surfaces and others that are bumpy or perforated to “oxidize with poetic unevenness” [3].


Part of preserving the natural site included keeping pieces from the original building [1]. Historical elements preserved in the new building site include palm trees and the Pool of Enchantment.

The most recognizable part of the building is the tower on the front side [3]. The shape is unique in design as it “rises from a rectangular footprint to a non orthogonal parallelogram.” Thus, the shape of the tower allows the building to further sink into the surrounding landscape as from some angles the tower almost disappears.

On the interior, the building consists of several courtyards that allow visitors to see outside and enjoy the natural surroundings as well as the art [4]. Additionally, Herzog and de Meuron did not want the building to have one main entrance, therefore they gave the museum four entrances [2].


As with any museum, light played an important factor with the desing of individual spaces [4]. Herzog and de Meuron also sought to show no favoritism to specific art rooms. They strived to make each room just as appealing for art as the next, while making each room accessible from the main walkways.

Ultimately, Herzog and de Meuron accomplished their goal of creating an art museum that could display sufficient amounts of art without being overbearing on the site.


deY_diagramAxo(source: diagram)


Herzog and de Meuron, de Young Museum. <>

Nicholson, Louise. “Herzog & De Meuron’s new, copper-clad de Young Museum in San Francisco ingeniously bonds with its setting.” Apollo Dec. 2005: 17+. Academic OneFile. Web. 14 Sept. 2010.

For San Francisco’s de Young Museum, Herzog & de Meuron create a new building with a sensual copperskin that will evolve over time. Architectural record [0003-858X] Amelar yr:2005 vol:193 iss:11 pg:104 -115

Ketcham, Diana. The de Young in the 21st century: a museum by Herzog & de Meuron. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2005.

Written by Nick Dassow

September 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm

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