The same day the Department of Labor announced record-breaking unemployment nationwide, the news out of San Francisco was downright optimistic. On April 2, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced an ambitious plan to double its exhibition space to accommodate its growing collections, exhibitions, and educational programming. The museum has chosen the San Francisco–based Gensler to plan a 50,000-square-foot addition and guide the reorganization of the museum’s collections, storage, and office facilities. Arthur Gensler is vice chairman of SFMOMA’s Board of Trustees.
As proposed, the new addition will not alter the 3rd Street view of the 1995 Mario Botta building, with its full-height central atrium and cylindrical turret, now considered an icon and anchor in the rapidly developing South of Market district. The new wing will be primarily located on a series of lots that back onto Natoma Street and bridge over a parking area on Hunt Street, a dead end. A new entrance will be added on Minna Street, to improve access to the auditorium and better accommodate school groups. The expansion will also allow the museum to consolidate its offices, 60 percent of which are currently off-site.
The announcement comes at an unusual time, as museums all over the country are struggling to raise money. In addition, the museum has just finished up another major undertaking, a $24 million rooftop sculpture garden, designed by Jensen Architects, which the museum will officially unveil in early May. Still, with the museum’s rapid growth since the Botta building opened, museum director Neal Benezra said now was the best time to act. "Continuing this planning is critical since it will enable us to move forward quickly and confidently with a fundraising campaign once the nation regains its economic footing,” he said in a press release.
Last summer, SFMOMA’s trustees endorsed an initial planning phase for the expansion, but then put fundraising on hold when the economy took a downturn in the fall. A spokesperson for the museum indicated that part of Gensler’s scope of work would be to determine a budget for the project. A capital campaign and architectural selection will commence following the planning phase, which is expected to conclude over the next year.