Take a tour inside Snøhetta’s SFMOMA before it opens in May 2016

Architecture Art In Construction West
SFMOMA (Gregory Hurcomb)

SFMOMA (Gregory Hurcomb)

“The building is not static—it is designed to gracefully mature over time as life and art move forward together,” said Snøhetta’s Craig Dykers poetically wrapped up his opening remarks at the pre-launch event of their heralded new addition to the SFMOMA, which is slated to open May 14, 2016.

A reworked Mario Botta atrium at SFMOMA (Jon McNeal)

A reworked Mario Botta atrium at SFMOMA (Jon McNeal)

New outdoor terrace. (Henrik Kam)

New outdoor terrace. (Henrik Kam)

These words captured well the essence of his presentation, one that focused on the new expansion as a landmark affair in the eighty-year history of the West Coast’s first museum devoted to modern and contemporary art. A development which witnessed an astoundingly successful fundraising campaign that topped off at $610 million which, in addition to covering construction costs, has more than tripled SFMOMA’s endowment.

“This expansion enables us to tap more fully into the energy all around us, in a region known for its special creativity and beauty, while greatly increasing the presentations of a collection that includes remarkable concentrations of artworks that can be found nowhere else,” noted museum director Neal Benezra.

A hardhat tour of the Snøhetta addition led visitors through a vastly expanded and exploded in scale and breadth building, which highlights new and unique spaces designed to house the large scale projects of modern art such as Richard Serra’s monumental sculpture Sequence (2006) and others.

Soon, museum visitors will have access to more outdoor terraces that are scattered throughout the building offering exclusive and exceptional experiences of the downtown San Francisco urban cityscape. Previously a one entrance and exit museum this new building sports multiple access points and talks to current notions of porosity and an opening up of architecture as a fluid and dematerialized experience both programmatically and in the phenomenological.

Richard Serra artwork already in place. (Henrik Kam)

Richard Serra artwork already in place. (Henrik Kam)

SFMOMA Facade (Henrik Kam)

SFMOMA Facade (Henrik Kam)

The focal point of the project, of course, is the eastern facade of the Snøhetta expansion, which is comprised of more than 700 individually shaped FRP (fiberglass reinforced polymer) panels fabricated by Kreysler & Associates, a local fabrication shop specializing in composites, affixed to a curtain-wall system, allowed for a much lighter structural frame because of their own lightweight nature, bringing costs down, and highlighting the technological versatility of sustainable, locally sourced materials, and digital fabrication.

In celebrating the new building as a space for art, speakers at the topping off event ecstatically showed off new acquisitions their presentations and discussed the unique partnerships that allowed for these enormously expensive works to join the collection. Bob Fisher, the eldest son of Don and Doris Fisher, recounted his parents’ love affair with artwork and how they assembled over 1,100 art pieces that will become the focus point of many of the new exhibitions and offerings at SFMOMA over the next 100 years through an unprecedented public/private partnership.

There was much discussion of the finances of the new building in addition to the artwork that has been added to the collection. Charles R. Schwab, chairman of SFMOMA’s Board of Trustees, focused on many of the unique collaborations and joint acquisitions of artwork through unique partnerships with other world renowned museums. Over 500 donors supported the campaign which both raised money and alongside it—the Campaign for Art has secured more than 3,000 artworks from over 200 donors, enhancing key areas of the museum’s holdings and providing visitors with a fuller, more textured view of contemporary art.

SFMOMA hardhat tour (Gregory Hurcomb)

SFMOMA hardhat tour (Gregory Hurcomb)

In addition, the museum has added the Pritzker Center for Photography, the largest gallery, research and interpretive space devoted to photography in any U.S. art museum, and an increase in programs for children and families in the new Koret Education Center. SFMOMA will also now be free to anyone under 18, a gesture aimed at education and increasing accessibility for more kids and families to visit the space, in a time when ticket prices to exclusive culturally rich atmospheres seem to only get more and more expensive.

This building sings a new song to the city of San Francisco and the world and one can only hope that more architects and designers (and most apropos developers) press forward with exceptional and forward thinking designs that help craft international and world-class destinations.

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