First it was a Spanish mansion on the Presidio. Then it was a funky pyramid on Chicago's lake shore. After that, it became a slightly smaller pyramid on the same site. And now, George Lucas has unveiled two more new designs for his Museum of Narrative Art—this time for Los Angeles and San Francisco, whichever city wants it most.
The two proposals were both designed by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, who Lucas also tapped for the Chicago designs. Featured on SFGate, both West Coast renditions of the museum feature parabolic forms that embody some of the naive tendencies of formalism; both seem conspicuously designed without much thought to either site—plopped on an interchangeable bit of parkland.
The first proposal, set on the San Francisco Bay’s Treasure Island, has the thick torso and slim tail of a beached whale. It literally looks like it floated in from the water to set up camp, while some stairs were installed for visitors to come take a look. The second proposal, set in Exposition Park near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, has the 1950s futurist vibe of a landed UFO—if UFOs had green roofs. Most of the building has been lifted off of the ground, however, to preserve the park’s green space as much as possible. In my eyes, it’s the superior design of the two, simply for its softer touch on the landscape.
For all of the valid criticism the Chicago proposal received—that it was too large, too obtrusive to the coastline, too similar to a nuclear power plant—it made a statement. The modernized pyramid design, channeling a remix of ancient Egyptian and Mesoamerican icons, tacitly urged visitors to rethink their presumptions about history, priming them to enter a new temporal head space to absorb the museum's thesis and content—which includes artifacts and art that chart storytelling from ancient times to today. Done right, it could be a walk through the very history of human narrative development, encapsulated by an architectural shell. The two new proposals for the museum have no similarly historical anchor—they seem like they could have been designed anywhere, for any purpose.
That, however, may be the point. Lucas has said that he wants this museum built before he dies. As the rejections tally up, that articulated vision is beginning to look like some museum, any museum—and Lucas is no stranger to producing sequels.