Expansion Will Double Exhibition and Education Space
Design Transforms SFMOMA and Neighborhood Opening New Routes of Public Circulation and Access With New Entry and Pedestrian Promenade
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) today unveiled the preliminary design for its expansion that will double the museum’s exhibition and education space while enhancing the visitor experience and more deeply weaving the museum into the fabric of the city. The new building will both transform the museum and enliven the city by opening up new routes of public circulation around the neighborhood and into the museum. Completion is projected in 2016.
Developed by architectural firm Snøhetta in collaboration with SFMOMA and EHDD of San Francisco, the over 225,000-square-foot expansion will run contiguously along the back of the current building and extend from Howard to Minna streets, allowing for the seamless integration of the two structures. The new building will provide SFMOMA with a greater public profile and an openness that will welcome visitors and project the museum’s role as a catalyst for new ideas, a center for learning, and a place that provides great art experiences for Bay Area residents and visitors.
On its east side, the building will feature a sweeping façade and an entrance in an area that is currently hidden from public view and largely unused. This will be achieved through the creation of a mid-block, open-air, 18-foot-wide pedestrian promenade running from Howard Street through to Natoma Street that will open a new route of public circulation through the neighborhood and bring Natoma Street, currently a dead end, to life. The public promenade will feature a series of stairs and landings terracing up to an entry court that extends from the new east entrance, providing additional public spaces.
The building also introduces a façade on Howard Street that will feature a large, street-level gallery enclosed in glass on three sides, providing views of both the art in the galleries and the new public spaces. At this time, the museum is also exploring the creation of a number of outdoor terraces, including one on top of its current building. The Snøhetta building will rise fifty feet higher than the Botta building, and its roofline will be sculpted to frame the skyline of the buildings beyond it to the east when viewed from Yerba Buena Gardens. The new entrance will be accessible from both Howard and Natoma streets and will align with the new Transbay Transit Center being built two blocks east of the museum. This entry will complement SFMOMA’s current Third Street entrance, which will be revitalized to enhance visitor flow and access.
On Howard Street, the glass-enclosed gallery and pedestrian promenade will be located on a site currently occupied by Fire House 1 and its neighbor at 670 Howard Street. SFMOMA is designing, financing, and constructing a new, replacement fire station on nearby Folsom Street, representing a gift to the city of more than $10 million, that will provide the Fire Department with a state-of-the-art facility that will enhance emergency response time.
The planning of the expansion continues as an intensive collaborative process of museum leadership, trustees, visitors, other stakeholders, and the design team. The design of the interior spaces and integration of the two buildings will be unveiled at the end of this year.
Says SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra, “This is a transformative design for the museum, the neighborhood, and the city. The new resources we are creating for SFMOMA are a response to the incredible growth of our audiences over the past 15 years and increased public demand for the museum’s programming. The welcoming and luminous character of Snøhetta’s design and its embrace of the surrounding neighborhood further SFMOMA’s role as a center for learning, interaction, and inspiration for the people of San Francisco and the region.”
“Our design for SFMOMA responds to the unique demands of this site, as well as the physical and urban terrain of San Francisco,” says Snøhetta principal architect Craig Dykers. “The scale of the building meets the museum’s mission, and our approach to the neighborhood strengthens SFMOMA’s engagement with the city. Pedestrian routes will enliven the streets surrounding the museum and create a procession of stairs and platforms leading up to the new building, echoing the network of paths, stairways, and terracing that is a trademark of the city.”
SFMOMA has raised more than $250 million toward a projected $480 million campaign goal for the expansion, including $100 million for the museum’s endowment. The project also encompasses an expansion of the permanent collection, which forms the foundation of the museum’s programming. This past February, SFMOMA launched a multiyear campaign to further strengthen the collection, which has more than doubled in size to 27,000 works since the museum moved to its current home in 1995. In September 2009, the museum also announced that the Fisher family would share its renowned collection of contemporary art with the public at SFMOMA. The museum holds one of the foremost collections of contemporary art in the world and the leading collection of modern and contemporary art on the West Coast.
SFMOMA first announced plans to expand its building in April 2009, spurred by growth since it moved to Third Street in 1995. The move catalyzed incredible growth in the museum’s audiences, educational programs, exhibitions, and collections. Over the past 15 years, SFMOMA’s annual average attendance has more than tripled to some 700,000, membership has grown to 40,000. SFMOMA has also developed one of the strongest exhibition programs in the world, organizing groundbreaking shows that travel internationally, including recent surveys of the work of Diane Arbus, Olafur Eliasson, Eva Hesse, Frida Kahlo, William Kentridge, Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle, and Jeff Wall.
Snøhetta on SFMOMA
In describing the design concept, Craig Dykers stated:
SFMOMA sparked the dramatic transformation of San Francisco’s South of Market district when it transformed a run-down neighborhood into a cultural anchor for the city in 1995. After 15 years on Third Street, SFMOMA is now further invigorating the city by opening up a place that has been out of sight and out of mind.
SFMOMA’s expansion will enliven the neighborhood through a generous plan that frees connections between well-known surrounding streets and more hidden urban spaces. The building will encourage people to enjoy the intimate small streets as much as the heavily used thoroughfares of the district. The new building does not push tightly against its property lines; instead it creates new public spaces and pedestrian routes through the neighborhood along with open views of the surrounding streetscape. By organizing the complex configuration of the museum’s expansion site into a unified whole, the new SFMOMA will promote connections to portions of the city that are already becoming more publicly accessible with the construction of the new Transbay Transit Center. Having been a partner to the creation of the cultural hub around Yerba Buena Gardens, SFMOMA will now further enliven the entire neighborhood as an urban destination.
Formally, the new SFMOMA is designed to engage with the skyline that surrounds it. Its sculptural identity is found in a formal language that embraces and invites the silhouettes of its neighbors to participate in the dialogue of the new urban identity of South of Market. SFMOMA’s new, low slung shape will create a horizon in the skyline that connects rather than segregates the different parts of the city that border it.
Formed in 1989 and led by principals Craig Dykers and Kjetil Thorsen, Snøhetta is an award-winning international architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design firm based in Oslo, Norway, and New York City. As of 2010, the firm, which is named after one of Norway’s highest mountain peaks, has approximately 100 staff members working on projects in Europe, Asia, and the United States. The practice is centered on a transdisciplinary approach where multiple professions work together to explore differing perspectives on the conditions for each project. A respect for diverse backgrounds and cultures is a key feature of the practice; reflecting this value, Snøhetta is composed of designers and professionals from around the world.
Joining Snøhetta in the creation of the expansion are local firms EHDD and Webcor.
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