Contemporary Jewish Museum

Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco - California, Daniel Libeskind
Construction year: 2008
Address: 736, Mission Street (between 3 and 4 Streets) | SAN FRANCISCO-CALIFORNIA | United States | Visit Website
Latitude/Longitude: 37.78597, -122.40371

In 1998, the Contemporary Jewish Museum selected architect Daniel Libeskind to design its new home, which was to include an adaptive reuse of the landmark Jessie Street Power Substation, designed by Willis Polk in 1907. In his design for the Contemporary Jewish Museum, his first commissioned project in North America, Libeskind responded to the Museum s mission to be a lively center that fosters community among people of diverse backgrounds through shared experiences with the arts by focusing on the celebratory nature of the Jewish experience.

Unveiled in 2005, Daniel Libeskind s design for the new Museum combines the history of an early 20th-century San Francisco landmark building with the dynamism of contemporary architecture. The design for the new 63,000-square-foot facility marries many of the character-defining features of the original substation, including the brick southern façade, trusses, and skylights, with bold contemporary spaces. The building, with its integration of architectural styles, emanates a powerful connection between tradition and innovation and reflects the Museum s mission to celebrate Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas within the context of 21st-century perspectives.

Architect’s design concept

The building embodies a number of symbolic references to Jewish concepts. Most notably, Libeskind was inspired by the Hebrew phrase “L Chaim” (To Life), because of its connection to the role the substation played in restoring energy to the city after the 1906 earthquake and the Museum s mission to be a lively center for engaging audiences with Jewish culture. The architect based the extension s conceptual organizing principles on the two symbolic Hebrew letters of “chai” (life), the “chet” and the “yud.” From the outside, the extension is most remarkable for its unique shape, as well as its skin: a vibrant blue metallic steel, which changes color depending on the time of day, weather, or ones vantage point.

Featuring over 10,000-square-feet of exhibition space as well as a multipurpose room, the new facility greatly increases the Museum s space for exhibitions and innovative programs in visual, performing, and media arts. At the heart of the new facility is a large education center, which allows the Museum to provide ongoing education programs in conjunction with its exhibitions for children, youth, adults, and seniors. The new facility also includes the Museum Store and Cafe on the Square with seating on Jessie Square when the weather permits.

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