On a Roll
Mairi Beautyman -- Interior Design, 8/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
With all the fanfare surrounding the construction of the future home of San Francisco's de Young Museum, a 300,000-square-foot tour de force by Herzog & de Meuron and Fong & Chan Architects, it's easy to overlook the institution's interim space. Until the new museum opens in 2005, its education hub, the de Young Art Center, is occupying a 1940's storefront—a project more modestly scaled but still hugely innovative.
"We originally had an open floor plan in mind," says Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco director Harry Parker. But the need to accommodate an exhibition area, a resource center, and a studio for an artist in residence promised a distracting circus of activity. In response, Lawson Willard Architecture divided the 2,200-square-foot lower level with movable partitions that flip out, fold up, stash away, and zip around on wheels to reconfigure the space constantly.
Principal Lawson Willard affixed panels of powder-coated steel, white-board, maple-finished apple plywood, and daylight-friendly clear plastic to a framework of oiled raw tube steel. The partitions are then mounted to overhead tracks, allowing them to slide, rotate, and even swing off. The same set of materials also forms four "teaming towers," workstations that house computers, art supplies, and stools. Collapsible when not in use, the towers roll where needed.
Unfortunately, castors don't always guarantee an easy ride. Floor irregularities posed issues during installation. As Willard recalls, "The question was always, 'Is this actually going to work?'" It does now, thanks to shock absorbers. And should continue to do so until Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are ready.