Sleek, Cloudlike and Modern

Architectural eye candy dazzles as Lucas Museum returns—pitting Bay Area vs. L.A.
Sleek, Cloudlike and Modern
George Lucas recently released artist conceptions of two proposed designs for his Museum of Narrative Art—one for the Bay Area, the other for Los Angeles. The above rendering, by architect Ma Yansong, is of the Bay Area site, at Treasure Island—four acres at the south end of the island, next to a planned ferry terminal. Photos: courtesy Lucas Museum of Narrative Art
Sleek, Cloudlike and Modern
Another rendering of Yansong's Treasure Island design for Lucas.
Sleek, Cloudlike and Modern
Architect Ma Yansong. Photo: courtesy World Economic Forum

A few months ago, in a city far far away, where a barnyard animal wouldn't let the locals win the World Series, Northern California legend George Lucas planned to build his long-touted Museum of Narrative Art.

Then, shortly before the Cubs slew their billy goat curse, Chicago's dreams of an extraordinary lakeside museum blew up in their faces like a fully operational Death Star.

Now, so soon after this near betrayal by one of its favorite sons, the Bay Area has a new hope for hosting the facility—and its design is as sleek and modern as anything Anakin Skywalker could ever build.

"The non-profit museum, which features a bold, new architectural design, will be a one-of-a-kind gathering place to experience collections, films, and exhibitions dedicated to the power of visual storytelling and the evolution of art and moving images," puffs the project website, lucasmuseum.org. "The Lucas Museum will celebrate the power of visual storytelling in a setting focused on narrative painting, illustration, photography, film, animation, and digital art."

Four months after the site on Lake Michigan was abandoned in June due to legal opposition, Lucas released artist conceptions of the proposed designs for two new locations, Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay and Exposition Park in Los Angeles. A decision on the winning locale is expected early next year.

The architect of the two designs is Ma Yansong, 41, a former protégé of Zaha Hadid, the late Pritzer Prize-winning architect. Although we spoke last week with a top associate of Yansong's, information about the project is more closely guarded than the location of a rebel base.

"We actually are not allowed to talk about it with anyone," said Dixon Yu, who manages projects in western North America for Yansong's Beijing-based firm, MAD Architects, from its Santa Monica office.

"It's in a very sensitive period," he said, explaining the exclusivity agreement MAD has with the Lucas Museum organization, a registered non-profit headed up by board president Don Bacigalupi. "There's not much detail coming out about it...Really, our hands are tied."

This is actually San Francisco's second go-round as a potential site for the ambitious project, which launched in 2013 and is completely funded by Lucas. A neoclassic design by Dallas-based Urban Design Group planned for eight acres fronting Presidio of San Francisco's Crissy Field was rejected by the Presidio Trust in 2014, despite several design revisions.