San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is “closed for construction, yet more open than ever.” With the museum expansion still under construction until early 2016, the SFMOMA collection has been popping up around the Bay Area in exhibits held within surrounding museums and public spaces. Even with the handful of curated exhibits planted throughout the Bay, the SFMOMA’s absence feels more present than ever.
Snøhetta’s vision of the new SFMOMA serves as a symbol for the museum’s future rebirth. Wedged within the dense urban fabric of San Francisco, the structure is as visually captivating as it is controversial. The white building is seen by some as visually distracting and sterile in comparison to the original museum below. Rather than a vehicle for art and ideas, the addition is seen more as a swaying white flag calling for mercy. The intent of the new design is to engage the public and create a sense of community through the museum’s architecture. It seems as though the towering structure is having the opposite effect. Is it possible for the the new building to engage the public before it is even built? Apparently yes, through augmented reality.
What is augmented reality? Augmented reality (AR) is a fabricated version of reality in which a real scene is overlaid with a tech-generated virtual scene to create a composite reality. The AR scene is then typically viewed through a device such as a smartphone camera. The SFMOMA is inviting the public to be a part of the construction process through a creative transformation of its new expansion via an augmented reality mobile application. The application was developed by Will Pappenheimer and John Craig Freeman, a Brooklyn-based team known for their creation of virtual public art installations.
The SFMOMA AR “app-arition” transforms the building into a performative art installation as you maneuver around the structure with your device. The spatial configuration of the new expansion becomes visible through floated planes and staircases. A simplified, virtual representation of museum galleries provide vignettes of how you might move through the space as a future visitor. As you move around the site, spaces evolve according to your relation to the building. A myriad of graphic patterns and textures are overlaid onto gallery planes and the exterior facade. Abstract graphic designs and objects, along with the occasional human eyeball, replace the white building panels and become a secondary performative skin. At times it feels as though you have been caught between reality and a psychedelic drug trip, but the process is intriguing nevertheless.
This mobile application brings forward another conversation. How will the building’s facade be utilized when construction is finished? With the majority of the museum's exterior consisting of white paneling, the building is the ideal blank canvas, lending itself to future installations. Whether or not the museum will embrace the building’s architecture as a performative gallery space is still uncertain. With the emerging marriage of technology and art through mediums such as projection mapping and video installation, the SFMOMA’s facade could evolve into a living skin and gallery within the city.
What do you think of the SFMOMA expansion? Will the building’s skin be used as a canvas for technology-driven installation art? Has the use of "blank canvas" buildings been effective within your community?
Credits: Images by Lauren Golightly. Data linked to sources.