Even from this vantage point, the most obvious design element of this museum is this observation tower [below] - featuring a top heavy piece rising 144 feet high.

With this piece jutting up from the mostly flat profile of the rest of the building, it's reminiscent of a battleship.

Outside, the building is covered in a copper material, which, upon closer examination, has been punched with various sized dents and dimples. [below]

At first blush, it feels a bit dark and oppressive, but sunlight causes the walls to change to various shades of umber, rust, and slate. According to what I've heard, the copper will patina and change color even more.

Walk in the main entrance, and the stark, austere lobby hits you like a cold slap in the face.

Somber, serious, and white -- with the addition of a slightly noisy fish tank, a stack of outdated magazines, and a Musak system piping in 'Girl from Ipenema,' you'd have a pretty nice waiting room.

$20.00 for 2 adults, 1 child under 12 is free. 'Please sign in, the doctor will see you in a moment.'

Very little assistance from the disinterested staff, but one security guard with a sense of humor, suggested we head directly for the observation tower.

So we did.

Around a corner, through a small exhibit of sculptures to wait for the elevator. Dreary and serious - like an old corporate office building. [right]

"Michael Graves, paging Mr. Michael Graves."

Once to the top, the elevator doors open to a glass observation tower, providing a spectacular wraparound view of San Francisco, the Bay, and all those familiar landmarks. [below]

Also on display, a great photo mural of the city [above right]. With the help of a native San Franciscan, we were able to find the Powell hotel and other landmarks that we had just visited earlier. The vibe up here was laid-back -- visitors quietly chatting, some pointing out various places they knew. Very cool.

Back down to level one, we walked to the main foyer and gallery [below] - more white walls, straight lines, and harsh florescent lighting. Just not inviting at all.

We opted for the Chicano art exhibit, which was bright, colorful, cheerful and a lot of fun.

The gift shop is serviceable. Some fun specific merchandise for the de Young, but nothing we couldn't live without.

We left empty handed - unusual for us.

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Here's the deal. There's a lot to see at the de Young. Along with traveling exhibits, de Young also has a large collection American paintings, African art, textiles and much more. Our goal was to simply get a flavor for the museum, and after this short visit, we felt we'd seen enough.

Walking out, and our feet aching, we opted to catch a cab back to the Powell, which arrived magically on cue. Driving away, I took one last glance at the newly opened de Young's observation tower - sticking out over the trees like a periscope jutting over the surface of the ocean.

I can't say that I liked the de Young. With all the great architects working today, the copper colored exterior, the looming observation tower, the cold interiors, all make for an unsettling experience.

Not welcoming and grand like the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Not as austere and sterile as the Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills -- but it was close. Not the excitement of Gehry or Graves. And definitely not the awe-inspiring wow factor of Santiago Calatrava.

The de Young was, as Mom would say….different.


de Young
Golden Gate Park
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 94118


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