April 3, 2008—the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) today broke ground on the new Rooftop Garden atop the Minna Street parking garage adjacent to its building. Designed by San Francisco–based Jensen Architects, the expansion project adds 14,400 square feet of both open-air and glass-enclosed multiuse space to the museum. The Rooftop Garden is scheduled to open in spring 2009, as one of many special events leading up to the museum’s 75th anniversary in 2010. A crowning enhancement to one of San Francisco’s greatest cultural treasures, SFMOMA’s Rooftop Garden will benefit the city by creating a new place of public interaction, a peaceful respite from surrounding urban bustle, and a fundamentally new way for visitors to experience SFMOMA’s ever-expanding art collection.
To accommodate the museum’s growing number of large-scale sculptures, the potential for a rooftop garden was incorporated into plans for the SFMOMA Garage, which was constructed in 1999. Hornberger + Worstell, the San Francisco–based architects who designed the parking structure, positioned its roof to align with SFMOMA’s fifth-floor galleries. They also equipped the Garage with emergency exits, and engineered it to support the weight of artworks and landscaping.
Jensen Architects’ design for the Rooftop Garden situates it as an integral part of the museum’s exhibition space, connecting it to the existing fifth-floor galleries by a pedestrian bridge. Visitors move between the original museum building and the Rooftop Garden through an enclosed passageway that also may be used for the display of art. Visible from Minna Street, the passageway changes the outside appearance of the building, lending it new character and interest. The corridor’s street-facing glass side enables the passerby below to view pedestrian traffic and art inside, and reinforces the museum’s civic role as a hive of activity.
A panoramic window replaces the entire back wall of the fifth floor of the museum, creating a new gallery with a dramatic view overlooking the garden. Outside, in the Rooftop Garden, sculptures may be installed in one of two open-air spaces or within a luminous glass pavilion. Dotted with seating areas and elegant seasonal plantings, the rooftop space will be surrounded by a 13-foot wall that dramatically frames the skyscape. This enclosure creates a seamless continuum with the urban surroundings, jutting dramatically skyward to provide visual definition to the rooftop location as well as protection from wind and traffic noise.
Conceived as an intermediary between museum and city, the garden proposes a new narrative to connect visitor, structure, art, and environmental site. The exceptional open-air setting emphasizes the museum’s cultural reach beyond its four walls, weaving together interior and exterior and blurring the distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces. Once completed, the garden will serve not only as an exhibition space for SFMOMA’s collection—rotated into the garden context on an ongoing basis—but as an urban oasis for reflection and relaxation.
Some 14,400 square feet will offer ample space for showcasing new acquisitions slated specifically for the garden (to be announced). It will also invite visitors to discover anew rarely seen works in the museum’s present holdings, including modern sculptures such as Alexander Calder’s Big Crinkly (1969) and works by Alberto Giacometti and Henry Moore, as well as contemporary works, including Stele I (1973) by Ellsworth Kelly; Zim Zum I (1969) by Barnett Newman; Untitled (Wheels and Suspended Double Pyramid 3B) (1978) by Bruce Nauman; and Ferro (1978–82) by Mark di Suvero.
“SFMOMA’s Rooftop Garden will be an integral part of the museum’s sequence of galleries—a true extension of the museum. The garden will be a gallery without a ceiling that can be curated,” says architect Mark Jensen.
The project will be executed by Jensen Architects, a Bay Area–based architecture and interiors firm that has realized a diverse range of designs—educational, institutional, commercial, retail, arts-related—and residential projects across California, the United States, and Europe. Its work has been recognized through numerous design awards and publications. The firm’s extensive knowledge of both standard and alternative construction techniques allows for design solutions that are elegant, cost-effective, and environmentally sensitive. Jensen Architects looks for unique, appropriate, and poetic responses to the constraints and opportunities of each project, taking extreme care to conceptualize comprehensively from the general to the particular so that the end effect is one of thorough and thoughtful consideration.
Jensen Architect’s design team is Mark Jensen (principal), Dean Orr, Gretchen Krebs, Steven Huegli, and Orit Goldstein-Mayer. The collaborating landscape architect is Conger Moss Guillard Landscape Architecture. Their design team is Kevin Conger (principal) and Rayna Deniord.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Rooftop Garden is made possible through the generous support of the following leadership gifts: the Mimi & Peter Haas Fund; Barbara and Gerson Bakar; the Jean and James Douglas Family; Patricia and William Wilson III; and Carolyn and Preston Butcher.