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San Francisco | SFMoMA expansion by Snøhetta

Place: San Francisco, Country: United States
client: SFMoMA
Design architect: Snøhetta
Associate architect: EHDD
Facade panels: Kreysler & Associates
Text by Riccardo Bianchini
Images courtesy of SFMoMA and Kreysler & Associates

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The SFMoMA expansion close to completion in Fall 2015, photo © Henrik Kam, courtesy of SFMOMA

SFMoMA expansion by Snøhetta

The SFMoMA – San Francisco Museum of Modern announced its re-opening for Saturday, May 14, 2016, after major expansion and renovation works. On the occasion, the museum will present an inaugural installation featuring some 260 works from its collection, as well as its new home, which promises to be one of the most dazzling contemporary architectures in San Francisco.

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Top: the expansion under construction; photo courtesy Kreysler & Associates;
bottom: SFMoMA Expansion Aerial Southeast Façade; rendered image MIR and Snøhetta

In September 2010, the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art announced the winning proposal of the competition for the expansion of the SFMoMA: it was a bright and dynamic structure by the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta.
The challenge was very demanding: to design an expansion (actually a second, larger home) which should fit in a narrow lot adjacent to SFMoMA’s original building, designed by the Swiss architect Mario Botta in the 1990s.

The extension is necessary to increase the exhibition and service space of the museum, which have become short as the collections expanded and the museum’s popularity grew.
The answer provided by Snøhetta is a ten-story, white-coloured, vertical building that does not try to match the appearance of Botta’s brick-clad architecture, but establishes a  visual and functional dynamic relationship with it, instead.

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top: SFMoMA Expansion View from Yerba Buena; image MIR and Snøhetta
middle: the expansion almost completed and Mario Botta building; photos © Henrik Kam, courtesy of SFMOMA; bottom: SFMoMA Expansion Howard St. entrance; image MIR and Snøhetta

From the conceptual design preview, to the topping-out stage reached in September 2014, and up to the late-2015 images of the nearly completed expansion, while details of the design progressively unveiled it became clear that the objective of the project is to create an open-access, public and social venue.

The new building, despite the limited area available, provides indeed plenty of gathering and socializing space: from the free gallery at the ground floor, which will accommodate large-scale artworks, to the panoramic balcony at the 7th floor, and the sculpture terrace at the third floor – an impressive outdoor space bordered by a vertical garden.

The project by Snøhetta includes the creation of a new public entrance, opposite to the current one, and the redevelopment of the Botta’s atrium with the addition of a new “grand” stair, linking the old and new buildings and unifying them into a functional and coherent whole.

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top: The free-access gallery at the ground floor, housing large-scale artworks, visible from the outside through a 25-foot-high glass wall, and offering stepped seating, will be one of the new gathering spaces of the SFMoMA. rendering: MIR and Snøhetta
Middle up: the Roberts Family Gallery featuring Richard Serra’s Sequence (2006) photo © Henrik Kam, courtesy of SFMOMA; Middle down: The original atrium in the Botta’s building showing the new Snøhetta-designed grand stair and (in background) the opening toward the new expansion; rendering: Steelblue bottom: The outdoor sculpture terrace with (on the left) the vertical garden; image MIR and Snøhetta

The expansion, on a floor area of about 235,000 square feet, accommodates flexible exhibition galleries, educational spaces, conservation studios, new services to the public and a state-of-the-art “white-box” space for performing arts, film screenings, installations and live events.

The new building is clad with innovative lightweight panels made of Fibre-Reinforced Plastic (FRP), manufactured by the U.S. company Kreysler & Associates. This is the largest application of composites technology to architecture in the United States, so far.

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Top: installation of the FRP facade panels; bottom: the manufacturing process of the cladding panels; images courtesy of Kreysler & Associates

The adoption of cutting-edge solutions for building insulation, cooling and heating, rain and waste water recycling and artificial lighting will make the new SFMoMA a low-impact museum, targeted for LEED Gold certification.

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top:  Schwab Hall under construction in SFMOMA, © Henrik Kam, courtesy of SFMOMA;
middle top: The flexible “white box” space on fourth floor will be a state-of-the-art venue for live performance and education programs; rendering MIR and Snøhetta 

middle bottom: SFMoMA Expansion Art Court; rendered image MIR and Snøhetta
bottom: SFMoMA Expansion Night Aerial from Howard St.; rendered image MIR and Snøhetta


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The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, also known as SFMOMA, is a modern and contemporary art museum in the SoMA district of San Francisco, California



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