When the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art first announced plans to double in size in April 2009, the city shuttered at the thought of metal shards gashing up the downtown landscape. Well, urban planning traditionalists can breath for now – and soon in the museum’s new rooftop plaza. What is set to become the largest building dedicated to modern art in the country, will also blend nicely with the existing Mario Botta design.
In 2011, SFMOMA gave the first visual tease of what the 235,000-square-foot expansion is set to look like, and earlier this year more official renderings surfaced. The plan is to extend the existing building from Howard north to Minna with an open-air 18-foot-wide “pedestrian promenade,” a street-level gallery enclosed in glass on three sides and an elevated public plaza 195-feet above the ground.
Although the block-long project may sound drastic, the photos reveal the modest approach taken by Swedish firm Snøhetta, selected last year to design the new wing. Fortunately, Snøhetta knows better than to create a blocky, anchor-like eye soar in the city. If there’s one thing San Francisco residents are passionate about, it’s their skyline. Snøhetta is also the design firm behind the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center site.
“We’re trying to minimize the mass of the building as much as possible. Every facade of the addition has to relate to the urban condition in a unique way,” Craig Dykers, principal architect at Snøhetta, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
This is not just a size complex for the SFMOMA. The museum is in serious need of exhibition floor space ever since acquiring Gap founder Don Fisher’s massive collection, which he loaned to the museum for the next 100 years.
Never ones to “Trump” their neighbors, the museum is also paying for the relocation of Fire House 1 on Howard to make way for the promenade. The replacement fire station will be a “state-of-the-art facility that will enhance emergency response time,” according to a press release. It will be constructed nearby on Folsom at a cost of $10 million, the museum’s gift to the city.
Perhaps the most controversial thing about the expansion is the addition of a new entrance on the east side that will align with the promenade and the new Transbay Transit Center being built two blocks away.
“Offering the public a choice when they approach a building is more powerful than saying, ‘Here is the (one) door,’” Dykers said.
But visitors will have to wait a couple of years before being confronted with that choice. The SFMOMA will close for expansion this summer and will re-open in 2016.