Saturday, 30 January 2016

Three Museums in San Jose

After reading about the lack of architectural interest in San Jose, I was pleasantly surprised to find the three main museums in the city housed in inspiring buildings. The other wonderful thing about these museums is that they are all within walking distance of each other.

Our first destination was the Jade Museum, a stunning modern building which evoked the design and texture of jade itself.  Architect Daniel Van der Laat used a ceramic material, reminiscent of natural stone to cover the outside of the building with a glass atrium cutting through the centre like a vein of jade. The museum itself has 7000 pieces of artifacts from 500 B.C. to 1500 on over 75,000 sq. ft of floor space, spread over 5 floors on either side of the atrium.  I love the setup which makes it easier for the visitor to look at a confined area of exhibits, come out to the atrium for a break and cross to the other side to see more exhibits - the visitor doesn't have to deal with large chunks of exhibit at one time as often happens with museum galleries that stretch on for miles and miles without a break.

Jade Museum

Vein of jade shown in uncarved rock

Exquisite jade carvings of monkeys and turtles

A "yoda" face?

Interesting Iguana vessel

The Precolumbian Gold Museum was even more of a hidden gem as it was all underground.  Built as an inverted pyramid under the Plaza de la Cultura,  the museum houses 1600 artifacts dating from 500 B.C. - I love the gold replicas of local Costa Rica wildlife.  The Plaza de la Cultura where the museum is located, is itself an impressive piece of urban design when I read up on the background of its multiple incarnations.  Envisioned as a meeting place and centre for music, large gatherings of the population and boasting "the longest sightline available for watching women walk in the city", it seems to be very successful as a  meeting place and a people watching place.  We took a long break in between museums and enjoyed ourselves sitting in the busy Plaza, equally bustling at all hours of the day and night.  

Stunning staircase going down the inverted pyramid to the gold exhibits

Gold frogs!
I love this mother and child sculpture in the museum.

We visited the National Museum on our last day in San Jose.  It was small as a National museum but it was in an unusual setting in a former fortress.  Visitors walk through a rain forested ramp up to the upper level where the separate buildings reminded me of a hacienda.  The main collection of interest was the stone spheres and the precolumbian stone tables (metates).

The National Museum housed in a fortress with bullet holes from the 1948 civil war

Exquisitely carved stone tables (metates)

Mysterious stone spheres found in Costa Rica, commonly attributed to the extinct Diquis race

 Intriguing stone spheres displayed in the courtyard of the National Museum, ranging in size from several inches to over six feet in diameter

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