The de Young Museum in San Francisco – Horse’s Ass Architecture

Not only is this an ugly building, but it is covered with 165,000 sq. ft. of copper — what a waste!

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

13 Responses to The de Young Museum in San Francisco – Horse’s Ass Architecture

  1. My sentiments exactly! That beastly aesthetic reminds me of the rich art-patron types in Woody Allen's Sleeper- living with a huge blown-up print of the Eddie Addams' Vietnam war execution photo on their living room wall, dressed in haute couture featuring a huge swastika.

    Nice (free) view from the observation tower though.

  2. While I agree that the architectural aspects of the building aren't inviting, I don't see how cladding the exterior in copper, a long-lasting, weather-impervious material that is 100% recyclable at the end of it's life is "a waste". Would siding it with cheap plastic that degrades in the sun and has to be replaced after a year or two have been better? Asbestos was a popular siding for a time, it actually made a pretty good wall, but is that appropriate, knowing what we do in this day and age? It's amazing to consider, but that copper siding will be worth more as scrap when the building gets torn down than the cost to purchase it today…

  3. I agree. What was it about the time in our past that made architects think this type of design was appropriate/needed/good/intelligent? It was arrogance and hubris to think that they could destroy something new that would replace the past. This was a sad period when architecture schools from the 1920s to the 1970s were misguided in their concepts of what people wanted and needed.

  4. hadn't seen pics of this previously, so googled it to get a better idea of it.

    have to agree, ugly. I have noticed, quite often (these days), the uglier some artistic endeavor is/artwork is, the more it costs and is "said" to be valuable……..

  5. A horse's ass is more aesthetic than this building at any time, including when it is excreting road apples.

    The purpose of modernism is to destroy and supplant the classical tradition of the fine arts, and to thwart the development of any artistic lineage which embodies visionary or transcendental values. It is not an art movement; it is the ideology of the machine made visible.

  6. i think it's beautiful. "the machine made visible" isn't some hateful ideology, but a form of honesty. i'd also guess the copper might not be "purely for looks"… off the top of my head, it could be a sunscreen to minimize overheating and provide some protection to objects while still allowing maximum defused light through the windows? i prefer your positive posts, lloyd.

  7. " 'the machine made visible' isn't some hateful ideology, but a form of honesty."

    In a factory or a brewery, or perhaps a museum of modern art, that might be true. This is an art museum designed to house mostly classical arts, and this design is not well suited to that purpose. Yes, there are beautiful examples of modern architecture. This isn't one of them.

    What I said about the ideological aspect of modernism also stands. Lloyd has wondered on this blog why his friend Godfrey isn't world famous. The reason is that at MOMAs around the world, there are gatekeepers who prevent that from happening. They and their supporters are invested in a certain aesthetic, and nothing else is permitted to gain serious recognition. Just try presenting them with portfolios of Godfrey's or Sunray Kelley's work and you'll discover this to be the case, first-hand.

  8. I understand you really don't like the building but fortunately we are allowed a variety of perspectives. You're notions of what is or is not beautiful, or what aesthetic is appropriate for a given structure are no more righteous than mine. While I adore Sunray, I have no problem understanding why MoMA doesn't care. Hint: it's in the name. If you feel unrepresented by 'gatekeepers', you're totally free to form your own curatorial team. That's exactly what Lloyd is doing. Obviously he doesn't have the cultural influence of 'the MoMAs of the world' but I can't see why that should be a given entitlement. I support him completely, but that's a choice I wouldn't expect to impose on institutions with clearly opposing agendas.

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