Great Expectations and Unexpected Revelations at the New SFMOMA

5/26 Blog Update: Today, Fast Co. Design published a in-depth look at David Brenner’s process, including his influence on Silicon Valley offices – check out this 5 min read:  The Star Horticulturist Behind Silicon Valley’s Living Wall Trend — David Brenner of Habitat Horticulture is greening up Bay Area companies—from Tesla to Ideo to Autodesk—one living wall at a time. 

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5/4/2016: Last week I had the pleasure of attending the press preview event for the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

David

    David Brenner, founder of Habitat Horticulture,     creator of the living wall at SFMOMA

 

The event was buzzing with national and international media, artists, industry powerhouses, influencers and tastemakers in the world of architecture, art and design. Nestled downtown among the intimate, eclectic (and often crowded) urban/architectural design of the city, Snøhetta’s revision of the SFMOMA is an architectural feat and nothing short of stunning — a true fortress of cultural preservation. With its vaulted ceilings, vast windows, doubled square footage and carefully designed layout for optimum interaction, the most notable impression of the new SFMOMA is its exultation of light and contemplative space.

I attended with our client David Brenner – the founder and principal of Habitat Horticulture – and the visionary behind the museum’s remarkable living wall which, at 4,399 square feet, is the largest in the country. As an evolving piece of art with carefully selected mediums (more than 19,000 individual plants and 37 different species), the wall has a specific design intent and captures the essence of an understory plant community in a California woodland.

 

The living wall at the SFMOMA is a literal touchstone for reflective idealism and a reminder that art, and its interaction with the public, is a living, changeable organism.

After a marathon day of immersion, here were some of my unexpected takeaways:

1) David Brenner has a favorite spot on the living wall (hint: it’s at eye level), and despite the standard approach to trendy, outdoor plant installations, there exists not one succulent on the living wall.

2) Comedic voices: Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani (of HBO’s Silicon Valley) are among the recognizable voices as guides in the new audio tours.

3) Robot-created art is a thing now. His name is Viktor and prefers chalk drawing.

4) If you watch long enough, the mobiles in the Alexander Calder gallery move in subtle synchronicity with the living wall. Wind circulating through the third-floor terrace rustles the leaves on the wall and sweeps into the gallery as visitors move throughout.

5) For a quick injection of whimsy, don’t forget to check out the colorful, monochromatic bathrooms on each of the seven floors of the museum. Seriously.

Purple Bathroom Green BathroomRed Bathroom

The #newSFMOMA debuts FREE to the public on Saturday, May 14 – and 45,000 square feet of art-filled public space in the new museum will always remain free. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop, where The Living Table – also by Habitat Horticulture – will be a featured piece of “fernature” for sale, so you can take a piece of the wall home with you.

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