New design ideas for a new Beat Museum

We’d like to thank everyone who attended our March 12th Open House, and offered their helpful, constructive input on the concept design created by architect Eugene Tssui for a new Beat Museum at 535 Green Street, incorporating the historic Buon Gusto sausage factory. The enthusiastic support of the North Beach community is very important to us as we take this next step forward.

Eugene has created a dozen new design sketches showcasing possibilities for the building facade. Let us know what you think in the comments below:


Spiral – Organic Change with Clouds & Stars

The philosophy of the Beat Generation expressed the importance of being relevant to the changing times and a kinship with nature—the relationship between humanity and nature.  What in nature is a greater and more timeless presence than clouds and stars and the winds of change?   The Beats wrote about this and they lived adapting to the changing issues of their place and time.  The spiral, clouds, and stars become the graphic expression of the museum, welcoming all people from all places, the changing times and challenges that we face in the constant procession of humanity, and the reach for aspiration and the timeless.  This is captured in symbol and imagery becoming the universal and public countenance of the Beat Museum, easily understood by every country and culture–the living spiral of change, the ethereal, ever-changing, transcendent, untouchable quality of clouds, and the eternal presence of stars.


Cubist Mosaic in North Beach

This concept makes an accounting of the physical character of North Beach and is a direct interpretation of the existing architectural landmarks and urban sense of place that defines North Beach. North Beach is physically defined by places such as the Coit Tower, the rounded Bay windows of the neighborhood buildings, Molinari’s Delicatessen, the rhythmic facade of the Stinking Rose restaurant, the three-story jazz mural building at Grant Street, Big Al’s, the Condor, Saint Francis of Assisi church, on Broadway, and the Mona Lisa restaurant, the Sentinel Building; all are depicted with a rising morning sun and scattered planes creating a crystalline, broken-up, cubist looking composition of multi-dimensions and angled planes. A salute to the place that nurtured the Beat Generation.


Chronological Influences and Events

The influence of the Beat Generation can be traced to many disciplines and events and continues to influence and affect each generation. The Beat Generation became a catalyst and platform for many of the major social and environmental movements of the USA; cool jazz, the Civil Rights Movement, the hippie generation, the environmental movement, the green movement, the Great Resignation, and now, the extinction crisis. The north/street facade of the Beat Museum displays these and many other events in a way that graphically shows the widening waves of influence starting at the core Beat Generation center and widening outwards to cover years and decades of traceable influence. Space has been reserved to allow the museum to record events well into the future and, will be an ongoing design which grows with the decades and continues to be relevant to unknown movements to come.


Eye of Consciousness

The Beat Generation promoted a sense of self-conscience, of self-reflection, of observing the world around us and the world within our minds; of the constant search for meaning and purpose, and the “Eye of Consciousness” is an architectural symbol of this. Self-observation is a dictum of peace, compassion, and authenticity, and thus the Eye of Consciousness is the eye of awareness and the observer of truth and falsehood; crucial tenants of the Beat Generation and for all thoughts and actions of value to all human endeavor.


The Road

The Road is the path of searching, of questioning, of moving forward towards finding meaning and purpose in life’s unexpected challenges.  What could be more universal than the symbol of the road as a metaphor for life?  In this case, it is the road from “On The Road” expressed by the architecturally represented routes taken by Jack Kerouac and his friends from Lowell, Massachusetts to San Francisco, California, and this becomes a codified theme that places life’s infinite challenges into a graphic route representing the trials and hardships of being human.


Jack Kerouac Typewriter & “On The Road” Map

Jack Kerouac is arguably the historical personification of the Beat Generation and his presence came from his “Stream of Consciousness” writings and his success as an author.  The machinery of this success was the typewriter and the authorship of his On The Road book, which described his thoughts and observations of the universal journey of discovery, became a launching platform for the Beat Generation and its fame as a credible social movement.   What better way to represent the Beat Generation than to use the typewriter and the road trip route of discovery which provided the situations that gripped a generation with substance and direction?


Mobius Strip Developed

The Mobius Strip is a mathematical conundrum which shows that it is possible for a physical object to have one side and that side returns onto itself if you follow its surface from a beginning point, continue to move forward from that point, and return to that point.  This physical conundrum is a wonderful metaphor for something that is assumed to be impossible being proven physically, to be possible, and it is a metaphor for traveling from one place to another and coming back on oneself—a model for the Beat Generation’s constant search for reality and, in the end, returning to the beginning, transformed.  There has never been a building constructed using this three-dimensional Mobius Strip model and ours would be the first.   This glass Mobius Strip structure is integrated with the undulating glass facade of the museum.   The use of glass creates an ethereal feeling of spiritual loftiness rather than a physical sense of place.


Mobius Strip Simplified

This alternative use of the Mobius Strip structure attaches itself, not from the undulating glass facade of the museum facade, but from the rounded stair-well corners of the museum building, giving the Mobius structure an airy, floating feeling, independent of the main museum building.  This version emphasizes the Mobius structure as something of an expression in itself and cantilevers beyond the parcel lines of the building’s site on the north side.   Here too, the glass structure emphasizes spirituality and sublime exaltation, rather than structural innovation.  The design goal is to transcend structural innovation in favor of experiential impact.


Starling Mumurations

This concept uses the north-facing frontal facade as a continuous movie screen, integrated into the geometry of the building’s structure, and creating a constantly changing view of Starling birds in flight and the spectacular, organic, and transforming geometries that these Starling bird flocks create. This concept draws visual attention to the building and stirs the curiosity of the viewer with a sense of puzzlement which makes them wonder what the building is. This living display of the mystery of Nature’s symbolic and physical transformation expresses the essence of the Beat Generation personalities who were a part of a constantly changing flight of ideas, poetry, mediums of expression, and relationship with the world.  This concept works well, since the frontal street facade of the building faces north, and thus has little problem with sunlight preventing the display screen from being comfortably viewed. The initial viewing would be one of puzzlement, then turning into fascination, and finally, one of awe and wonder. This is the same mental evolution that a new piece of poetry would have. Customers partaking in the restaurants and places of social gatherings across the street would be dazzled by the visual allure of this curious spectacle.


Endless Twisted Road

The Beats were constantly traveling an endless road of twists and turns, challenges and incidents that created a kind of pilgrimage to self-discovery, purpose, and meaning. To translate this into architectural language is to let the support structure of the facade twist and turn at five multiple levels signifying the five senses, and behind these twists, lie the glass mural depicting the main Beat Generation characters behind a typewriter, Jack Kerouac, and a jazz saxophonist playing next to a drummer.  The facade thus depicts the twists and turns of life on the universal human stage with the players being the Beats.  It is the Beat Generation’s call to attention:  That life is discovery and the constant test of your ability to handle life’s challenges with skill and to see that life is multidimensional and can be understood at multiple levels.


Expanding Wave Abstract

The Beat Generation was like a drop of wisdom and new insight into the stream of life that expanded concentrically out into the world. Their influence has touched and continues to be relevant to many social movements that define the history of modern man; the the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam War protests, the Hippie Generation, women’s liberation, the environment movement, the green movement, and now, the extinction crisis. All of these, and others to come, were like an ever-widening circle of global influence that began from the pages of Beat poetry and storytelling.  This ever-expanding circle of causality is depicted on the glass folds of the Beat Museum’s street facade and creates a concentric wave pattern like a drop of water on a still pond. The first drop is the original voice that sets into motion multiple waves of reaction and relevance.


Cubist Mosaic in North Beach (in blue)

There is no concept more simple and direct, for the Beat Museum facade, than to depict the very neighborhood where the Beats resided,
and that neighborhood is North Beach in San Francisco, bounded by the neighborhoods of Chinatown and the Barbary Coast. North Beach is the platform that gave voice to their thoughts and a place to their actions. This North Beach facade attempts to show the multi-dimensional characteristics of the Beats composed of familiar city sites and places that defined the Beat environment; i.e., Coit Tower, the Transamerica building, the Saint Francis of Assisi Church, the familiar canopies of Molinari Delicatessen, and the rhythmic arched windows of the Stinking Rose restaurant. All of these and more comprise the broken and reassembled mosaic of change that defines the neighborhood of the Beats: North Beach. It is the 75 foot by 40 foot tall neighborhood of the Beats mosaic that anticipates ongoing changes reaching far into
an unknown future.