The Contemporary Jewish Museum is 63,000-square-feet and located on Mission Street in downtown San Francisco. Since opening in June 2008, the Museum has provided space for temporary exhibitions as well as public and educational programs, and is itself a symbol dedicated to the history and revitalization of Jewish life in San Francisco. Housed in the abandoned late 19th-century Jessie Street Power Substation, updated in the first decade of the 20th century by Willis Polk, and landmarked in 1976, the museum makes visible relationships between new and old, between tradition and innovation, bringing together 19th, 20th and 21st century architecture into one building.
The CJM’s design is based on the Hebrew expression “L’Chaim,” which means “To Life.” Following the Jewish tradition, according to which letters are not mere signs, but substantial participants in the story they create, the two Hebrew letters of the chai — chet and yud — with all their symbolic, mathematical, and emblematic nuance, determined the form of the new museum. The building is based on unprecedented spaces created by theses two letter forms of the chai. The chet provides an overall continuity for the exhibition and educational spaces, and the yud, with its 36 windows, is located on the pedestrian connector.