San Francisco Social Diary

The de Young entrance designed by Herzog and de Meuron.


Part I – The de Young’s Architecture and the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

By Jeanne Lawrence

San Francisco’s cultural skyline changed forever
with the official opening of the sleek, new M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, October 15, 2005, in Golden Gate Park.

The dramatic de Young with its modern copper-clad skin and over 293,000-square-feet, including its signature Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon nine-story, 144-foot twisting tower with its 360º view, surpassed expectations surrounding the museum’s long reincarnation.

The de Young — A masterpiece at any angle; Aerial View with Marin Beyond.
The Museum’s Design

Renowned Swiss architects Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog, designers of London’s Tate Modern and the new Parish Art Museum in the Hamptons, and winners of the 2001 Pritzker Prize, led the design team. De Meuron and Herzog wanted to take advantage of the museum’s setting in 1000 acres of gorgeous Golden Gate Park — and make it the antithesis of “the white box gallery.”

To accomplish this, they integrated not only art and architecture in the design but included natural materials such as stone, wood, and glass. They also incorporated courtyards, terrariums filled with eucalyptus and giant ferns, glass corridors, and huge gallery windows overlooking the lush green park.

Known for their innovative exterior surfaces, the architects finally, after many experiments, chose a modern copper façade that would age and soften to an uneven verdigris patina and blend with the surrounding foliage. They used more than 7,200 panels of copper, weighing over 950,000 pounds, cut individually, embossed, and punched — no two are alike.

The design team, which included principal architects David Fong and Chiu Lin Tse-Chan and landscape architect Walter Hood, wanted to preserve the best features from the original museum. Therefore, they kept the historic 100-year-old palm trees, the iconic Sphinxes, and the Pool of Enchantment,” which holds cherished memories for the old timers.

Ribbon cutting ceremony

The Ribbon Cutting and the Official Public Opening

The official festivities began at 10 a.m. on Saturday, with performances from the San Francisco Symphony Brass, Ballet and Opera. At noon, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Board President Dede Wilsey cut the ribbon, and the M. H. de Young Museum officially opened to the public. Thousands lined up to take advantage of the special museum debut, “31 Hours,” which allowed visitors access nonstop until 5 p.m. the next day — for free.

In a nod to the museum’s original Egyptian design, the inaugural exhibition was Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh (she reigned 3,500 years ago), which later moved on to New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

Color Guard adds a bit of pageantry

Mayor Gavin Newsom and de Young President Dede Wilsey are first to enter

Harry Parker, de Young director at the time

Dede with son Trevor Traina

Dede's a pro by now

Board Members and their guests arrive

Director Harry Parker and Iris Chan

Meeting of two Mayors - Newsom and former Mayor Willie Brown

Congresswoman Nanci Pelosi with Bernard and Barbro Osher

An impromptu meeting of trustees

Pritzker Prize winners Pierre de Meuron and Jacques Herzog

Even the de Young staff can't upstage that design

Belva Davis and Bill Moore

Clockwise from top left: Throngs amidst historic palms preserved from the original museum; How long did they say this line is; Egyptology.
Listening intently
Fern Court - inside and out.
Children of all ages welcome

Even the entertainers were a work of art

Clockwise from top left: Apples attract the weary; Browsing the bookshop; It was a real family affair; Art in motion - SF Ballet.

Panoramic view from the tower.


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Photographs by Tom Gibbons.


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/