“Where Art Can Take You” is the campaign to transform the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).
The bold and recognisable existing building designed by Mario Botta opened in 1995 and was always a delight to visit, with its programme of changing exhibitions. It was however constrained by its size and is now closed for redevelopment to be completed in 2016 as part of an ambitious programme to substantially increase the amount of space for the Museum and enable it to keep up to date with changing visitor demands, especially the use of new digital technology – in particular the next generation of mobile technologies, while also opening up the museum to the city community around it.
As the SFMOMA website says: “In every way, SFMOMA has outgrown its current home. With an expanding collection and robust programming attracting a steadily increasing number of visitors, there is simply not enough room for presenting art, nor for the experiences of art that people want and deserve. To realize SFMOMA’s full potential, we must pursue a new kind of museum experience, a model that puts audience side by side with the art itself.”
The Museum’s goals for expansion are to provide a substantial amount of additional space to house its continually-growing collection, temporary exhibitions, educational and public activities and to “provide civic and cultural leadership to our community and beyond, inspiring creativity in all who come in contact with SFMOMA”.
The target funding for the project, including an endowment to support its activities, is $610 million, of which the building is believed to be around half.
The structural frame of the new building is now taking shape. Designed by in collaboration with the architectural firm Snøhetta, the new extension of around 24,000 sq m will more than double the existing gallery space and will provide almost six times as much public space as the existing building. New facilities include a new outdoor terrace on the seventh floor, a flexible, double-height “white box” space on the fourth floor for live art, school groups, film screenings and special events.
The building is environmentally sensitive and is on target to achieve LEED Gold certification, with 15% energy-cost reduction, 30% water-use reduction, and 20% reduction in waste water generation.
The project will include the new John and Lisa Pritzker Center for Photography on the third floor that will triple the amount of space dedicated to photography at the Museum to create what is claimed will be “the largest exhibition space for photography in any art museum in the United States”.
The site of the new extension is very constrained. There will be an interesting contrast between the existing Mario Botta building which will still remain the recognisable architectural symbol of the Museum when viewed from the Yerba Buena Gardens, and the new new building will rise like a white cloud above and behind it but will be more identifiable from the other directions. The ground floor with its 8m glass walls will transform the connection with the city and provide ground-level galleries and an urban space for people to experience art, to meet and to socialise, free with new entrances that make the museum accessible from every direction.
This is an ambitious and exciting project both in terms of the new facilities and the connection with the city but also in the way that modern art will be displayed and made accessible.