SFMoMA Unveils Details of Design and Expanded Building Program

Snøhetta, SFMOMA Expansion Aerial Southeast Façade; image courtesy Snøhetta

With 79 percent of the capital campaign goal raised two years ahead of the groundbreaking for the expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the museum’s Board of Trustees has approved visitor- and city-friendly enhancements to the original design program and, in turn, has raised the capital campaign goal to $555 million from $480 million, an increase of 15 percent. These additional funds will enable the museum to increase the number and types of spaces dedicated to education, public engagement, exhibitions, collections, and programs. Expanding strategically on the conceptual design announcement made in May 2011, SFMOMA today unveiled new design details including ground-level galleries and orientation spaces that will be free to the public and new educational spaces throughout the museum. The design also features new pedestrian pathways that lead to and through the museum from the surrounding streets, creating a nexus for the neighborhood. The expansion is designed by architectural firm Snøhetta in collaboration with SFMOMA; groundbreaking is scheduled for summer 2013, and completion is projected in early 2016.

“The success of the quiet phase of the capital campaign and the first phase of the Collections Campaign demonstrate the community’s commitment to helping us grow as an institution and in our capability to offer an unparalleled experience of the art of our time,” says SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. “San Francisco has always been a magnet for the creative spirit, and the generosity of early supporters of the campaign demonstrates the community’s desire for an even more accessible and engaging space for contemporary art. As we enter the public phase of the campaign, we hope even more people in the community will support us in creating an even more dynamic institution, one that naturally draws people into the museum and encourages them to experience and engage with art in new ways.”

“The city of San Francisco has a great partner in SFMOMA, and all of our residents and visitors will be enriched by the expansion. The enormous generosity of the donors to the capital campaign is very much appreciated,” said Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco. “Art lovers, schoolchildren, our hospitality industry, construction trades, and the Yerba Buena neighborhood will all benefit.”

Capital and Collections Campaigns

SFMOMA has raised more than $437 million of the new campaign goal of $555 million. In addition to the capital costs, the new campaign goal will more than triple the size of the museum’s current $100 million endowment. A campaign committee has been formed, with Charles R. Schwab as Chairman and Diana Nelson as Vice Chairman.

“In planning for the expansion we have been extremely careful to ensure that we set achievable and sustainable goals,” noted Charles R. Schwab, chairman of the SFMOMA Board of Trustees. “Now, due to the early response from members of the community in terms of funding the expansion, building our endowment, and donating works to the collection, we can move forward in creating an even greater resource than originally imagined, one that will serve San Francisco and the region for generations to come. The Bay Area community’s tremendous response is confirmation of the importance of our essential role as an educational, civic, and economic resource for the people of our city, our state, and beyond.”

SFMOMA holds one of the foremost collections of the art of our time in the world and the leading collection of modern and contemporary art on the West Coast. Concurrent with the capital campaign, the museum has also expanded the permanent collection, which forms the foundation of the museum’s programming. In February 2009 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 through a century-long agreement and presentation of the collection at SFMOMA.

Expansion Design

Developed by architectural firm Snøhetta in collaboration with SFMOMA and EHDD of San Francisco, the design details released today reveal increased public circulation between the museum and the city through the creation of free ground-level galleries, new entrances that make the museum accessible from every direction; a central public gathering place, and more extensive routes of public circulation. The use of glass throughout the building, as well as the creation of two outdoor terraces and a new sculpture garden, further serves to open up the museum and connect it to the city.

The design of the interior spaces synthesizes the current Mario Botta–designed building and the new Snøhetta expansion into one seamless whole. Two main entrances (the current entrance on Third Street and a new one on Natoma Street) will lead into a central space that will serve as the public entry point to all galleries. To create an expansive, flowing space on the entry level of the museum, the original staircase will be removed from the Botta atrium. There will also be a new entrance added on Minna Street to create a more welcoming arrival space for the more than 13,000 schoolchildren that visit SFMOMA each year.

In addition to new routes of public circulation inviting visitors into the museum, the expansion will foster more intuitive navigation within the museum. While most museums isolate a single area of the museum dedicated to education, SFMOMA’s new design features a variety of education spaces throughout the building, directly connected to the galleries. The design also includes a new, multifunctional space that can be easily adapted for educational programs, live performances, or special events.

Since contemporary art is characterized by great variety in form, media, and function, a critical part of the expansion is the creation of galleries of differing scale, materials, and lighting specifically designed to enhance the presentation of a range of art, from photography to installation, video, painting, and sculpture. The galleries in the existing and new buildings will be unified and total 130,000 square feet, double the current square footage. 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. Upon opening, the Howard Street gallery will house one of the gems of the Fisher Collection, Richard Serra’s masterpiece Sequence (2006). The sculpture will be visible from the outside even when the museum is closed.

The 235,000-square-foot expansion runs contiguously along the back of the Botta building, extending all the way from Minna Street to the north to Howard Street to the south. The expansion creates new routes of entry from the north, south, and east sides of the unified buildings—a significant, visitor-friendly enhancement to SFMOMA’s sole original public entry, to the west, on Third Street.

On its east side, the new 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 realized 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. Additionally, the design opens up a direct pathway between SFMOMA and the Transbay Transit Center currently under construction two blocks to the east of the museum. 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.