Sam I Am

New details emerge on expansion and renovation of Seattle’s Asian Art Museum

Architecture News West
The exterior view of the proposed Seattle Asian Art Museum. (Courtesy LMN Architects)
The exterior view of the proposed Seattle Asian Art Museum. (Courtesy LMN Architects)

On September 30, LMN Architects revealed renderings for a planned $49 million expansion and renovation to the Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) Asian Art Museum, the first time in the 83-year-old institution’s history that its flagship art moderne structure will be renovated.

The building, located in the city’s verdant Volunteer Park, was designed by Carl F. Gould of the architectural firm Bebb and Gould to house SAM’s original art collection. After SAM’s principal collection was relocated in 1991 to a downtown Seattle flagship designed by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, the 1933 building was rechristened as the Asian Art Museum. That move left the original Bebb and Gould building languishing, a product of a bygone era when buildings relied heavily on natural ventilation as a means of climate control and the needs of only a small portion of potential building occupants were considered. As a result, the structure lacks the sophisticated temperature and climate control systems typical for a world-class art institution and is out of compliance with Americans with Disability Act (ADA) legislation.

The scheme for a new entry. (Courtesy LMN Architects)

The scheme for a new entry. (Courtesy LMN Architects)

LMN’s renovations aim to fix those discrepancies and more by rebooting the structure through the addition of a new wing along the existing eastern side containing a 2,650-square-foot gallery for Southeast Asian art, a community meeting room, and a set of new office spaces. The renovation will also add teaching spaces and possibly an Asian art conservation studio. Importantly, the extension will be clad in expanses of glass and aims to increase the connections between the museum’s
interior and its park setting.

View from the planned garden lobby. (Courtesy LMN Architects)

View from the planned garden lobby. (Courtesy LMN Architects)

Regarding the complicated renovation plans for the structure, Sam Miller, lead architect for the project at LMN, said, “On the renovation side, our goal is to be true to the original intent of the building and to transform the [Bebb and Gould structure] into a fully functioning, 21st-century museum while also being entirely respectful of the historic fabric and the design quality the building represents.” He added, “In another way, our work is to make sure you would never know we were there.”

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