2017 Remodeling Design Awards
Commercial Remodeling under $500,000: Grand
In his 2001 poem “The Poetic City That Was,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti concludes that, in San Francisco, “Corporate monoculture had wiped out any unique sense of place, turning the ‘island-city’ into an artistic theme-park without artists.” Sixteen years later, the cultural shift hasn’t let up, forcing the local community to come up with alternative ways to preserve what’s left of the once-thriving creative center.
Aidlin Darling Design is one firm contributing to this effort. Earlier this year, principal Joshua Aidlin and his team completed what he describes as his “passion project:” A remodel of a space that serves as the new home to the influential and forward-thinking gallery Modernism founded by revered Bay Area artist Martin Muller. The first to show Andy Warhol, the Russian Avant-Garde, and Le Corbusier on the West Coast, the gallery had been forced out of its home and was at risk of closing down for good. Aidlin was determined to prevent that from happening.
“The tech boom is unprecedented and has changed the entire economy,” Aidlin says. “The creative community is trying desperately to hang in there and take care of each other so we can continue to inspire people in the arts.”
Located in a former grocery store in the up-and-coming Tenderloin arts district, the new Modernism building honors the history of the existing structure and the origins of the gallery while providing a place for viewing experimental art. The design retained more than 70% of the existing structure, revealing much of it as the finished surface.
Within, the space is divided both horizontally and vertically. The ground floor is divided into two galleries: a two-story sky-lit space incorporating mobile walls that can be reconfigured as needed and asingle-story space with sliding walls to hide a storage area that can hold hundreds of artworks. A more intimate second-floor mezzanine has offices and places for private meetings with collectors.
The gallery’s front facade provided an opportunity to express Muller’s roots in cubism as well as early deconstructive painters. Inspired by the lithographs of El Lissitzky, one of the first artists to be shown in the 38-year history of the gallery, the design focuses on point, line, and plane to create a large streetfront viewing portal and the primary entry.
“We crafted this large aperture frame for passersby to look into gallery yet simultaneously articulate the entry canopy that you pass through for entry off the street so it becomes this abstract painting and then a three-dimensional abstract sculpture,” Aidlin explains.
The steel frame on the storefront serves several purposes, too. It supports both the enclosure for the roll-down grille and the extension of the entry canopy, and it is the base of an interior bench, thus providing the functions of entry, viewing, repose, and security.
FROM THE FIRM:
The design of the Modernism Gallery honors both the history of the existing structure and the origins of Modernism itself. The new façade of the gallery was inspired by the lithographs of El Lissitsky, one of the first artists to be shown in the revered history of the Gallery. A series of steel frames, planes, and lines are sculpted to create a large street front viewing portal and the primary entry into the gallery. Within, the design creates a highly intentional and complimentary dialogue between the original structure of board form concrete walls and wood ceiling members, and the new, crisp, white modern planes that define the walls for displaying art. The program is delineated vertically into a public ground floor for the viewing of art and a more intimate second floor mezzanine for offices and more private meetings with art collectors. The ground floor contains two galleries of opposite character. The first, a two story skylit gallery that incorporates mobile walls that can be reconfigured as needed depending on the curator's vision of the respective exhibit. The second gallery is a much more intimate single story space with sliding walls that reveal hundreds of stored art works which can be retrieved and hung at a moments notice.