Levine Architects | Parti foul: Asian Art Museum

Parti foul: Asian Art Museum


The “Parti” (or organizational structure) of the relocated Asian Art Museum inhibits a proper viewing of the diverse artistic languages of the permanent collection.  For those who remember, the previous museum building in Golden Gate Park had galleries arranged around a central void, like satellites orbiting around the mother ship, facilitating cross-cultural comparisons between Asian cultures from multiple countries, both ancient and modern.

The corridor circulation, upstairs in the new building forces the viewer to follow the paradigm of a “Buddhist river,” constrained to a linear direction from one end of the floor to the other, without the freedom to steer an artistic discourse.  (The loss of artistic-viewing-whimsy is hardly mitigated by the cost savings of fewer security guards.)

There’s an obvious solution.  Subvert the current circulation system: Start at the elegant entry cloister, proceed up the grand staircase, and transform the towering, former reading room into a new magnetic collector and dispersal zone, connecting the galleries, each refocused to a specific country and genre, both ancient and modern.  This will transform the viewing experience from a 2-d linear path, into a 3-d myriad of cultural curatorial explorations.

How appropriate to bespeak of cultural confluence: A world class Asian collection in a grand Beaux Arts edifice, like the liminal transition from warm brown curved stone arches in the original building to the dramatically inverted cool green glass and steel modern skylights.

Design by Ted Levine