Part of SFMOMA’s new Pritzker Center for Photography, this welcoming space provides museumgoers with interactive tools to better understand the art of photography, its history and its connection to their lives.
Nominating Company: Second Story, part of SapientNitro, Portland, Oregon
Venue: SFMOMA/Photography Interpretive Gallery, San Francsico, California
Project: SFMOMA/Photography Interpretive Gallery
Category: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation
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Photography is one of the most powerful and ubiquitous art forms in our culture, and its importance seems to shapeshift with every click of the shutter. SFMOMA has long championed the medium, now celebrated at unprecedented scale within the new Pritzker Center for Photography.
But the museum wanted to do more than just display its unparalleled collection. It wanted to help visitors think about photography in a whole new way. So we created the Photography Interpretive Gallery, a space for learning and reflection where interactive tools help museumgoers better understand the art, its history and its connection to their lives.
The location of the gallery presented an interesting challenge. Situated between the main photo exhibits and a bustling coffee shop, it isn’t just a space for interpretive exploration. It’s also the perfect place to take a break and have a snack. We approached its location not as an obstacle but as an opportunity, considering our responsibility not just as digital designers but also as place-makers. We took measures to accommodate its hybrid programming, selecting materials that would hold up to latte spills and croissant crumbs, arranging seating into centralized islands and designing minimal digital interfaces that would be interesting from afar and unobtrusive in the periphery but dynamic and compelling up close.
At once an exhibition, educational center and a gathering place, the Photography Interpretive Gallery brings to life how we shape photographs and how photographs shape our perception of the world.
In “The View from Here,” visitors explore the impact of photography on California’s history and its mythology. Turning a pair of dials, an analog nod to the camera’s classic dials, they navigate through narratives providing context around and insight into seminal works from the museum’s collection.
“In Their Own Words” focuses on photographers’ wildly divergent creative processes. Browsing video playlists organized by theme, visitors find interviews with a variety of artists whose styles range from conceptual to documentary to experimental. An integrated speaker array ensures an intimate, seamless experience.
Elsewhere in the gallery, we collaborated with Adobe Labs on “Self Composed,” which challenges visitors to represent themselves using only the contents of their pockets.
SFMOMA was thrilled to see the space immediately being used exactly as intended. It quickly became, in one client’s words, “the clubhouse of the museum.” While some visitors dive deeply into the content, devouring the stories of SFMOMA’s greatest photographic works, others feel welcome to just sit, sip their coffee and watch others use the interactives or even ignore the technology altogether.
Thanks to the strategic physical design of each interactive area, the screens blend into their surroundings. This thoughtful integration ensures visitors look through the technology in the space rather than at it.
In the end, we transformed a thoroughfare into a destination, creating a comfortable space that highlights the museum’s commitment to the art of photography, complements Snohetta’s stunning architectural design and gives visitors a new lens through which to contemplate the images they see and take every day.
Fabricator: David Bertman Designs
A/V integrator: BBI
Self Composed Design & Development: Adobe Labs