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Seattle Asian Art Museum.

LMN Architects.

Seattle, United States

October 2019


Samuel Miller, Wendy Pautz, and Pamela Trevithick.


Yomi Adeyemi, Robert Ames, Aaron Argyle, Henry Butitta, Michael Day, Tiffani Erdmanczyk, Anya Fiechtl, Mette Greenshields, Joanne Koola, Mark Lo, Lori Naig, Lauren Patnoe, Christopher Patterson, Francene Ray, Ayako Sakurai, Jeremy Schoenfeld, Kathy Stallings, Jennifer Tamblin, Megan Taylor, Paulina Wilkowska, and John Woloszyn.


Seattle Art Museum


Tim Griffith and Adam Hunter/LMN Architects.


The Seattle Asian Art Museum expansion and renovation marks the first substantial renovation of the landmarked, Art Deco building since its construction in 1933. A long-awaited and highly anticipated project for the city and the community, it was initially conceived as a modest improvement of the mechanical systems. The project quickly expanded to include much-needed improvements to environmental conditioning, seismic performance, accessibility, and accommodations for enhanced storage, movement, and display of art. After a pause of several years due to the economic recession, the project was re-envisioned to include an expansion with a new gallery, dedicated education space, a conservation lab, and a community art gallery. Throughout the design process, there were extensive interactions with local and national historic landmark agencies and the surrounding community.

The design team helped to facilitate consensus building among multiple stakeholders including the museum’s board of trustees, executives, curators, project partners, the City, park groups, and the community. The process began with a small group of museum stakeholders who determined the critical museum needs and defined the project goals. Once these had been confirmed, the team helped lead six open community meetings. The firm combined the feedback received from the community with that from Seattle Parks and Recreation, the City’s Landmarks Preservation Board, the National Parks Service, and the core group of museum stakeholders to come up with the final design.


A treasured historic building in a landmarked, Olmstead-designed city park, the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s expansion and renovation inaugurate a new era for one of the few museums in North America dedicated exclusively to Asian art. The project marks the first substantial renovation of the landmarked, Art Deco building since its construction in 1933. The expansion and renovation restored the historic structure, modernized the original galleries, and added a new gallery, education space, conservation lab, and community art gallery. The project preserves the building’s architectural legacy while enhancing the museum’s capacity to support its growing collections and fosters a more inclusive relationship with the Seattle community.

The project focused on recapturing the essential character of the historic building and complementing it with a new, contemporary addition, compatible with the historic structure. The modern addition enhances the Fuller Garden Court, the historic building’s central hub, and provides access to galleries from multiple points. This is accomplished by the introduction of two new portals connected to a new Park Lobby, providing an additional access path through the new gallery. The historic entry, Fuller Garden Court, and the Park Lobby create a circulation spine with views of the park to the east and the west, rejuvenating the building’s connection to the park and the community.
The renovation and expansion create the opportunity for the museum to honor its mission, tell new stories about Asian art, and increase the connection between Asian art and the multi-cultural community within the Pacific Northwest.


The project restored and preserved the historic structure, modernized gallery spaces, and added a new Park Lobby that invokes the essence of the historic building in a contemporary way. The new environmentally controlled gallery spaces expand the museum’s ability to display a broad range of art and enable the museum to share artwork that has never been seen before. Expanded exhibitions and a dedicated community education and gallery space further enhance community involvement and provide greater access to public programming.

The physical changes have also been an opportunity for the museum to launch a new Asian Paintings Conservation Center, which will address the lack of US conservators specializing in Asian art. In consultation with colleagues from 19 museums, SAM’s chief conservator has led the creation of the new facility that will serve the region.

The museum is a treasured cultural building for the city and the renovation and expansion preserved the architectural legacy of this historic building and enabled the museum to expand its Asian art collection. The project ensures this historic landmark remains an important cultural resource for future generations while being more representative and inclusive of the multi-cultural demographic of the Pacific Northwest. “For a long time, the museum didn’t have much of a relationship with a broad Asian American community in Seattle, and we’re trying to foster a more meaningful connection,” says Chiyo Ishikawa, the deputy director for art at the Seattle Art Museum.

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