Dissent from the public and from preservationist groups over Gluckman Mayner Architects’ modernist-style proposal for a museum in the Presidio has succeeded in convincing Donald and Doris Fisher, founders of the Gap, to rethink the location, size, and architect for the Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio (CAMP) they had proposed for the site at the foot of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. “The Fishers are going with [locally-based] WRNS Studio to do the redesign,” Alex Tourk, a spokesperson for the Fishers, told AN on January 20. “It’s their feeling that it would be best to go with a local firm after the new parameters were established in December.”
He added that the new design would include locating large portions of the museum underground and “significantly downsizing” the entire project, which was conceived as a work of contemporary architecture of the scale and stature of the de Young Fine Arts Museum in Golden Gate Park by Herzog & de Meuron.
Last summer, the Presidio Trust, a federal corporation established to oversee the 1,491-acre national park, had recommended the Fishers’ plan to build a $150 million museum for their collections alongside a historic parade ground known as the Main Post, to be designed by New York’s Gluckman Mayner Architects. A hodgepodge of historic buildings from five different eras now stand on the site, including brick barracks from the 1890s and a Mission-style officers’ club. The Gluckman Mayner proposal was a two-story shifted glass box designed to mirror the formal geometries of the Main Post and echo the white-columned arcades of nearby barracks with vertical white mullions.
Following a prolonged and complicated environmental impact review and public concerns that the Trust had not fully addressed the potential impact of the new museum, which is located within a National Historic Landmark District, the San Francisco Planning Commission wrote a letter to the city attorney’s office arguing that “the design of the proposed contemporary art museum and the associated landscape plan is too stark of a contrast to the buildings and spaces that would flank it.”
On December 5, Donald Fisher agreed to consider major alterations to the Gluckman Mayner design, including different materials, a reduced scale with some portions underground, and the relocation to a site about 100 yards across the road. According to a spokesperson at Gluckman Mayner, “We worked with a large amount of flexibility. We were not pig-headed, nor did we say that it had to be white masonry and glass.” He added that the design was undertaken even as the Trust was still developing its design guidelines, further complicating the process.
“The Trust was a partner in finding the site that we designed for,” the spokesperson said. “If we had all seen that a different site was a solution, we would have gone down that road.” As for putting much of the museum underground, he said, “Don said from the start that he wanted to build a museum because he never wanted his collection to be stashed in basement storage.” He added that it was “a bit of a surprise” to hear that WRNS, formerly the associate architects on the Gluckman Mayner scheme, was now redesigning the project. Calls to WRNS Studio had not been returned as of press time. Tourk said that a new scheme would be released in March.