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2018 MCHAP

SFMOMA Expansion


San Francisco, CA, USA

April 2016


Craig Dykers, Snøhetta


Duncan Ballash / EHDD (Associate Architect) Leif Johnson/MKA (Structural Engineer) Steve Taylor/Taylor Engineering (Mechanical & Plumbing Engineer) Brian Smith/The Engineering Enterprise (Electrical Engineer) Steve Murray/KPFF (Civil Engineer) Denis Blount/Arup (Lighting, Acoustics & AV, Facade ) Claire Maxfield/Atelier Ten (Sustainability & Energy Modeling) Bill Kreysler/ Kreysler & Associates (Facade Design Assist & Fabrication ) Jeff Vaglio/Enclos (Facade Design Assist) David Brenner/Hyphae Design Lab, Habitat Horticulture (Living Wall )


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


Henrik Kam Iwan Baan Jon McNeal


The main assets of the original SFMOMA, its collection and galleries, have been significantly bolstered by the Expansion. While the overall building has doubled in size, gallery square footage has nearly tripled to allow both SFMOMA’s impressive holdings and the Fisher Collection’s incredible breadth to be on display and create a place for modern and contemporary art to rival any other. The individual gallery types are diverse and welcoming, created to support display of specific collections and scales of work, with sculpted ceilings for the large-scale works of the new Fisher Collection Painting & Sculpture Galleries, flat ceilings to maximize volume for larger scale Photography, Painting & Sculpture and Architecture + Design, and raw technical ceilings for Contemporary and Media Arts exhibitions. The varied characters of the galleries, which come together as a collection of neighborhoods, make the scale more intimate and comfortable for the visitor, who may see one or more exhibitions during a single visit. The galleries were designed to create a serene yet energetic art experience. Technical infrastructure and devices are hidden from view to allow the visitor’s gaze to focus on the art. Floating maple flooring and acoustically tuned ceilings soften footfall noise and create ideal conditions for comfortable conversation. Snøhetta’s design incorporates many sustainable features and stands as a model for energy efficiency among art museums around the world. As an integral part of the expansion design process, the team consulted with leading environmental scientists and green-building experts to inform decisions affecting the preservation of works on view, energy costs, and the museum’s overall environmental impact. SFMOMA will achieve significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, increased energy efficiency, and tailored humidity and temperature controls throughout the building. As a result of these and other efforts, the museum received LEED Gold certification for the new building, with a 47% reduction in energy use and a 60% decrease in potable water use.


The new SFMOMA was reconceived as an outward-looking and engaging gathering space and opened to the public on May 14, 2016 as one of the largest modern and contemporary art museums in the world. Connections to the surrounding neighborhood and city were carefully considered for both the outdoor and indoor public spaces, providing the visitor with an intimate experience of the artworks and reimagining SFMOMA as a gateway into the city of San Francisco. The new SFMOMA realizes in built form the museum’s goals of being a welcoming center for arts education and an important public space for the Bay area. The new expansion runs contiguously along the back of the existing Mario Botta-designed building which opened in 1995, allowing for a seamless integration of the two structures. Expanding the original SFMOMA called for creating new entries and capitalizing on the surrounding network of underused streets. The Expansion is nestled into the interior of a megablock, but pulled back from the neighboring buildings to create a new pedestrian connection between the major streets and smaller inner block laneways. Along this connection is the new main entrance to the museum. By doubling the amount of exhibition space and expanding the unticketed gallery areas and outdoor public spaces, the museum is now more accessible than ever. The expansion enlivens the surrounding cityscape by opening up new routes of public circulation throughout the South of Market neighborhood and into the museum.


The individual galleries in the Expansion connect seamlessly to the existing building. They support display of specific collections and provide the visitor with an intimate experience of artworks across all scales. All main galleries in the Expansion are connected by a cascading series of stairs and outdoor terraces, which frame dramatic views of downtown and the Bay Area. Inspired by the many steep streets and public stairs in San Francisco, these city gallery stairs offer long distance city views, social connection with fellow visitors, and a healthy climb which readies the eyes, mind and feet for the next set of galleries. The rippled geometry of the façade expresses the natural phenomena of the Bay Area – sunlight, wind, and fog – and is dynamic in all types of light. Its doubly-curved form brings daylight and a new public passage to street level below. Innovative use of fiber-reinforced polymer - an incredibly durable and lightweight material – resulted in a more efficient building structure with reduced material quantities of steel, concrete, and fuel. The new public passage at street level invites passersby and visitors alike to explore new paths through the city in tandem with spontaneous and enriching art experiences. With triple the exhibition space, access to expanded ticketless galleries, and carefully considered indoor-outdoor connections, the SFMOMA Expansion activates new relationships between the museum and its city, visitors and collection. The Expansion embodies the museum’s identity as a welcoming center for arts education and vital public space for San Francisco.

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