Something’s Awry at Libeskind’s San Francisco Museum

Metropolis’s publisher finds that the Contemporary Jewish Museum wasn’t designed with accessibility in mind.

On a rainy day in May, my wife and I arrive by taxi at Daniel Libeskind’s Contemporary Jewish Museum. We’ve seen this wonderful sculpture of a building from the street and are eager to experience it. But I’m having problems getting there. The museum is on an interior street, so after we leave the cab, we have to walk on the slippery sidewalk. This would not be a problem for most people, but I use a cane and am having an awful time getting to the front door. This is a public building and, surely, the ADA rules for access have been followed. Or were they? In fact, was way-finding in a true systems sense even considered by the designers?

Signage might have helped, but that’s just one part of the solution to true way-finding. How about providing a golf cart or some other low-tech, non-polluting conveyance for those, like me, who need help getting around?  What if we could have made reservations, online, for such a conveyor, which would pick us up at the curb and deposit us at the front door? What if the Yerba Buena Center, which is home to other iconic buildings, had this service available to the public?

That technology exists; and so does the imagination to use it well. Today, for instance, you can reserve a bike online in Milan and other cities—so why not reserve a cart to a popular urban center? Equal access is easier to provide now than ever before, and buildings and places that don’t consider the complexities of the human condition should be downgraded by the public as inaccessible.

Related: In the May issue of Metropolis, executive editor Martin C. Pedersen talks to an information-graphics expert about the finer points of way-finding design.

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