Thursday, November 29, 2007

Deconstructing the de Young, part 1

I'm back from my travels and ready to blog again! In my last post I promised an analysis of the visitor experience at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The building itself is an Invitation, drawing you in across the park with the amazing cantilevered tower.
(Invitation is Step 1 of my 8-step process.)

I doubt I would have noticed this had I not been with a de Young fan, but the crack in the stone walkway is part of the Andy Goldsworthy site sculpture and leads you into the building as well. It's a play on San Francisco's fault line.

In this beautiful, wide-open entry stands a lonely plastic "rules" sign, with the hours and No Skateboarding, etc. posted. Add-on signs like these are usually an indicator of a broken experience (pun intended—it's standing on the fault line.) Sometimes statement buildings don't think through the actual user experience. Knowing the posted hours is important in a public park. Anyone who works in the park (like a maintenance person or gardener) could have told them that skateboarders and bladeskaters would be dying to cruise into this cool space. So, it's unfortunate that the design didn't take these factors into account in a more elegant way.

Here is the Goldsworthy piece in the entrance courtyard. Is it austere? Lonely? Elegant? Seating? Each viewer can decide.

Tip of the day: When designing public buildings, make sure the team talks to front-line staff members like gardeners and the maintenance/operations crew. They'll be able to provide critical information that might otherwise be missed while it can still be designed in.

In the next post we'll look at Steps 2-4: the entry (Welcome), Orientation, and Comfort.

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