wHY’s virtual monopoly on commissions for expanding West Coast art museums may continue this week when their plans for expanding San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum are presented to the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission for approval.
According to a memo submitted to the San Francisco Planning Commission, the project aims to add a single story, $25 million wing to the landmarked 1916 Beaux Arts structure for “cutting edge” contemporary art. The structure will be wrapped in criss-crossing bands of aluminum and topped by a roof patio and canopy. The addition would contain a long-span exhibition hall as well as mechanically ventilated art conservation facilities.
The original neoclassical structure was designed as San Francisco’s first Main Library in 1916 by Ecole des Beaux-Arts-trained architect George A. Kelham, who also designed San Francisco’s Federal Reserve Bank headquarters and served as the supervising architect for the construction of the University of California, Berkeley campus between 1927 and 1931. In 1987, then-Mayor of San Francisco Dianne Feinstein proposed to revitalize the Civic Center area containing the Main Library with a plan that would include converting the structure to museum use.
The building was finally converted in 1996 by architect Gae Aulenti and has been home of the Asian Art Museum since 2003. Because the structure was constructed during the Civic Center Landmark District’s period of significance, spanning from 1906 to 1936, wHY’s addition will have to adhere to Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation & Appendix J of Article 10 to insure the proposed project does not destroy or damage any of the contributing elements of the building.
In recent months, wHY has seen their share of museum and gallery expansion projects increase drastically, with proposals for Los Angeles’s new Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Maurice and Paul Marciano Art Foundation, and San Francisco’s Gagosian Gallery outpost.