Press Office Expansion

New Details of SFMOMA Expansion Design Reveal Museum's Broader Vision for Visitor Experience and More Public Access

Dramatically Enhanced Education Program, More Admission-Free Areas, and Reduced Environmental Impact Respond to Museum's Deepened Commitment to Civic Life

Strengthened Pledge to Art Conservation and Versatile Space for Live Performance Advance the Study and Display of Contemporary Art

As Capital Campaign Proceeds Towards Target, Construction to Begin Summer 2013

Released: February 14, 2013 ·

February 14, 2013 — The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) today announced further details of its approximately 235,000-square-foot building expansion. When the new museum opens in 2016, it will provide a greater art experience for visitors and support SFMOMA’s increasing role in city life and the international art community, with more free-to-the-public space, expanded education programs for schoolchildren, more flexible galleries to accommodate live performances and large-scale works of art, and field-leading contributions to global standards of energy efficiency for art museums.

“From the very start of this project, our goal has been to improve nearly every aspect of who we are as a museum and how we serve our many audiences,” says SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. “As we continue to develop the design, it’s clear that the programmatic and architectural steps we are taking will allow us to be a truly living space, providing the best art experiences possible to all of our visitors.”

Developed in collaboration with the architecture firm Snøhetta, SFMOMA’s new building will include seven levels dedicated to diverse art experiences and programming spaces, and three housing enhanced support space for the museum’s operations. It will also offer approximately 130,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor gallery space, as well as nearly 15,000 square feet of art-filled free-access public space, more than doubling SFMOMA’s current capacity for the presentation of art while maintaining a sense of intimacy and connection to the museum’s urban surroundings. The expansion will also include other new features, such as:


Building Our Future: SFMOMA Expands
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·         A large-scale vertical garden located in a new outdoor sculpture terrace on the third floor, which will be the biggest public living wall of native plants in San Francisco

·         A versatile, double-height “white box” space on the fourth floor equipped with cutting-edge lighting and sound systems that, in tandem with the museum’s upgraded Phyllis Wattis Theater, will open new doors for SFMOMA’s program of live art, and also improve services for school-group tours, film screenings, and special events

·         State-of-the-art conservation studios on the seventh and eighth floors that will further SFMOMA’s progressive work in the care and interpretation of its growing collections

·         An environmentally sensitive approach on track to achieve LEED Gold certification, with 15% energy-cost reduction, 30% water-use reduction, and 20% reduction in wastewater generation

·         A new outdoor terrace on the seventh floor with incredible city views, further integrating the urban indoor/outdoor experience that SFMOMA began in 2009 with the opening of its current rooftop sculpture garden on the fifth floor

At the same time, as previously announced, new public spaces and additional public entrances to the building (on Howard and Minna Streets) are designed to increase access and weave the museum more deeply into the neighborhood. A mid-block, street-level pedestrian promenade will open a new route of circulation in the area, enlivening the side streets and offering a pathway between SFMOMA and the Transbay Transit Center currently under construction two blocks east of the museum. Building on the popularity of the museum’s artist commissions in its admission-free atrium, an expansive free-to-access gallery on the ground floor with 25-foot-high glass walls facing Howard Street will now place art—such as Richard Serra’s enormous walk-in spiral sculpture Sequence (2006)—on view to passersby for the first time. This gallery will also feature stepped seating, offering a resting and gathering point for museum tour groups and neighborhood denizens alike.

“SFMOMA has had a tremendous impact on the economic and cultural vitality of the South of Market neighborhood and the city,” says San Francisco’s District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim. “Even though this area is one of the city’s oldest, in many ways it’s still the freshest, where much of the most dramatic change is happening. The museum’s expanded home in this cultural center will provide even greater public access and support to emerging and established artists as a hub of creativity and international art destination. I look forward to seeing the district grow and evolve even further as SFMOMA’s future takes shape.”

Threefold Expansion of Education Program

Art encounters for schoolchildren are at the core of SFMOMA’s educational commitment to the community, with the goal of spurring creativity and fostering a lifelong engagement with the arts. As part of SFMOMA’s expansion program, the museum will increase and enhance education spaces in order to grow the number of K-12 student visits from 18,000 to 55,000 annually with the reopening in 2016. This tripling of the number of schoolchildren who will have access to modern and contemporary art each year deepens SFMOMA’s dedication to students, especially those in the San Francisco Unified School District.

The modular “white box” space on the fourth floor will serve as a starting point for many school tours, allowing SFMOMA educators to welcome significantly greater numbers of both students and families to the museum. Encouraging more studio activity and hands-on art-making, the upgraded Koret Visitor Education Center located on the second floor will allow more family-oriented artist commissions and more opportunities for professional development for teachers. The Phyllis Wattis Theater—SFMOMA’s current film and performance venue—will feature improved support for theater performance, with a larger stage, a new green room, and new projection capabilities. With direct access from Minna Street, these three spaces—the “white box,” Koret Center, and Phyllis Wattis Theater—together represent an integrated institution-within-an-institution for education and public programs.

“The educational services offered at SFMOMA will enormously increase the opportunities for students in San Francisco to learn through and about art,” says Richard A. Carranza, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District. “As a school district that understands the value of having inspiring encounters with art at a young age, we are very excited that today’s announcement means that even more K-12 students will have access to art education at SFMOMA.”

Flexible Venue Creates New Possibilities for Performance-Based Art

In addition to serving as a starting point for school tours, the “white box” space on the fourth floor, with a state-of-the-art lighting grid and acoustics, will create new possibilities for live performance, accommodating theater-in-the-round configurations, multiscreen projections, and special installations. This will be the first time SFMOMA has the full range of flexibility and infrastructure necessary for today’s increasingly performance-based work, allowing artists to explore movement and film in new ways, and providing better support for pieces not suited to the separation of a proscenium stage or to a gallery with acoustic bleed or containing art with conservation concerns. The space will foster works that call for continuous action over long periods of time or live pieces rooted in intimate audience-performer exchange and group dynamics. With its own direct entrance from Minna Street, the “white box” space will also accommodate after-hours special events and catering.

“With this versatile new space, SFMOMA could not be better set up to present the live art projects and performances that are so much part of the art of our time,” says Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs at SFMOMA, who has been leading the active growth of the museum’s Live Art initiative over the past few years.

Leadership in Art Conservation and Environmental Sustainability

The seventh and eighth floors will house SFMOMA’s expanded art conservation studio, benefiting from extraordinary northern light. More resources for the study and care of media arts in particular will join existing expertise in conservation of paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and photography. This strengthened commitment to contemporary art conservation will enable more specialized research to build on the museum’s renowned work with living artists as eyewitnesses to art-making right now. Close proximity to the galleries will better facilitate artist interviews and documentation of their materials, allowing the museum to reveal more of this behind-the-scenes work to the public and tell a more complete story of contemporary art practice. On the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors the museum’s administrative staff will be united for the first time in 15 years in light-filled spaces that, through strategic adjacencies, will allow greater opportunity for intellectual collaboration.

While art museums are by nature heavy consumers of energy due to the need to maintain specific environmental conditions for the objects in their care, SFMOMA’s expanded home will be a model for energy efficiency among art museums, advancing a broad rethink currently underway in the field. As an integral part of its expansion design process, the museum considered the nature of its collection, the building, and the local climate to arrive at an innovative plan that balances preservation of works on view, energy costs, and environmental impact in new ways—advocating more flexible industry guidelines for humidity and temperature allowances based on a given museum’s unique geography and weather conditions. SFMOMA’s conservation leadership then convened a symposium and consulted with colleagues worldwide to recommend new environmental conditions for the expanded museum in 2016 that will achieve significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, increased energy efficiency, and many other environmental gains while upholding a sustained commitment to caring for our cultural legacy.

As part of its progressive thinking in the field, SFMOMA will convert to energy-saving LED lighting systems in the galleries and employ other approaches to environmental sustainability, such as lighting control systems that respond to changing daylight availability, building materials designed to minimize the transfer of thermal energy, and recirculated water. In addition, the wood flooring in the current fifth-floor galleries will be repurposed for use in the new conservation studio, and other recycling of materials—for SFMOMA’s own building or to the construction market—will take place throughout the process. As a result of all these efforts, the museum is on track to achieve LEED Gold certification, with 15% energy-cost reduction, 30% water-use reduction, and 20% reduction in wastewater generation.

A vibrant, large-scale vertical garden located in a new outdoor sculpture terrace on the third floor, extending from Howard to Minna Streets, will use a combination of rain and waste-water to support low-upkeep native plants that range from ferns to fungi to small flowering shrubs. Created by Bay Area designers Habitat Horticulture and Hyphae Design Laboratory, the living wall will be the largest public vertical garden in San Francisco.

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Since SFMOMA’s founding in 1935, the museum has drawn nearly 23 million visitors, 50% of them since moving to its current location on Third Street in 1995. Over the past 17 years, San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood has grown up around the museum: new hotels, retail, restaurants, and residential properties were built and continue to thrive, all contributing to the tax base and economic vitality of the city. In 2016, SFMOMA’s new home will again transform the neighborhood as a major tourist attraction and as an employer: upon completion of the expansion, SFMOMA anticipates an over 20% increase in employees as well as 20% growth in its audiences, which currently average 650,000 annually. The expansion will also create over 1,400 new jobs in construction and related areas, and SFMOMA will be an even greater economic stimulant when it expands its operations and purchases of goods and services from Bay Area businesses.

To date, SFMOMA has raised more than $437 million toward its capital campaign, or more than 80% of its goal of $555 million—a total that includes funds for both construction and endowment.

About Snøhetta

For more than 25 years, Snøhetta has been involved with some of the world’s most notable public and cultural projects. The company was founded when a group of young architects won the competition to design the new library in Alexandria, Egypt. Since then, the practice has expanded while maintaining its integrated, trans‐disciplinary approach—including architectural, landscape, and interior design—toward all its projects. Established in Norway in 1989, Snøhetta has maintained offices in both Oslo and New York since 2004, when the firm was commissioned to design the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center site.

Snøhetta has partnered with Bay Area architects EHDD, who have brought invaluable understanding of San Francisco to the design process, alongside a team of world-renowned engineers, consultants, and contractors across the country.

Jill Lynch 415.357.4172 jilynch@sfmoma.org
Clara Hatcher Baruth 415.357.4177 chatcher@sfmoma.org
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