Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Color Icon: San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum

This weeks post from Colour Studio features one of our favorite San Francisco icons.  In this aerial view, we can see  buildings of varying architectural styles nestled on a block.   One building in particular stands out as a color icon: the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum!

The museum, whose tag line is "connecting art, people and ideas," explores the history, art, and spirituality of the Jewish community today. The building is tucked among the footprints of giant skyscrapers, malls, hotels and historic St. Patrick's Catholic Church.  The museum designed by Daniel Libeskind  melds the historical 1907 brick building, originally the Jessie street power substation, with a dark blue stainless steel addition completed in 2008. This visual juxtaposition of new and old, steel and brick, earth tone and metallic finish might have been jarring but this building feels whole when taken in context with its contemporary glass and steel surroundings. 

The shape of the extension, using the architects characteristic angular shapes is clad in metal tiles.    The form was inspired by the Hebrew letters “chet” and “yud,” both used to spell “L’Chaim,” meaning “To Life”.   The prominent solid color of the extension is as important as the shapes themselves. The opalescent blue colors  selected  are often associated with depth and stability, wide night skies, still ocean waters. 

The color, which has been shown to slow our metabolisms, heart rates, and produce an over all calming effect, seems glacial, like a solid block of cooled tempers emanating tranquil cold into the hyperactive city life surrounding it.   And this is part of what makes this museum a color icon. This building is a clear example that color should never be thought of as mere decoration, chosen purely by personal preference. 

Color, if carefully and thoughtfully chosen, broadcasts meaning to those in the vicinity of the building. A combination of the extension association with a call "To Life!" and the deep blue color can easily be seen as a political or social statement, a call for compromise, levelheadedness, or forethought. In a heated world, the San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum asks its visitors to take a deep breath, and not let things get out of hand. Color has the power to change us, our bodies and our minds, and here is a community using color for peace. 

All images via Studio Daniel Libeskind

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