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Revision Unveiled for Libeskind's San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum

Image Courtesy Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco

Perhaps the third time really will be a charm for the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco. The Museum has unveiled scheme number three for a site that uses the preserved brick façade of an early twentieth century, Willis Polk-designed power substation as its main entry. Located in the cultural district of the city, the site has cultural institutions designed by Botta, Maki, Polshek and Legoretta as neighbors.

The first design, in 1997 by Peter Eisenman, raised huge public ire over the plaza in front of the building. In 2000, the Museum unveiled a fresh attempt by Libeskind in joint venture with Chong Partners of San Francisco. While more welcome by the public, construction on this 100,000 square foot version was delayed due to a reorganization of the institution. The third incarnation, by the same team, is a scaled-back and streamlined version of the second scheme. At 60,000 square feet, this version still contains the potential spatial excitement of the interior and the provocative strategy of the smooth shining body of the galleries rising up behind the historic façade. Construction on the $41 million project is slated to begin in spring of 2006—barring any new difficulties.

Lisa Findley