San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by Snohetta
  1. Home
  2. Architecture
  3. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by Snohetta
By Snøhetta -

The transformed and expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) opened to the public in May 2016. Purpose-built to showcase the museum’s celebrated collection, the new SFMOMA was designed by the Snøhetta, and seamlessly integrates a 10-story expansion with the original Mario Botta– designed building. The expansion includes 170,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor galleries tailored to the collection, enabling SFMOMA to display more of its outstanding holdings of modern and contemporary artworks.

The new building enables SFMOMA to be more welcoming and better connected to the city than ever before, with free public access to nearly 45,000 square feet of ground-floor galleries, as well as a permanent commitment to free admission for all visitors 18 and younger.

SFMOMA’s leadership worked closely with Snøhetta to design the new museum as an outward-looking and engaging gathering space. Connections to the surrounding neighborhood and city were carefully considered, along with bringing the benefits of landscape and the outdoors to the museum spaces. New pedestrian pathways around the museum and a new public entrance on Howard Street better integrate SFMOMA into the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood and activate the surrounding streetscape.

The iconic eastern façade of the Snøhetta-designed expansion, inspired in part by the waters and fog of the San Francisco Bay, is comprised of more than 700 uniquely shaped and locally fabricated FRP (fiberglass reinforced polymer) panels. Throughout the day, the movement of light and shadow naturally animates the rippled surface. Silicate crystals from Monterey County embedded in the surface catch and reflect the changing light.

Craig Dykers, founding partner of Snøhetta and leader of the firm’s design team for SFMOMA, said, “Our design seeks to create an intimate experience, welcoming a diversity of visitors to the magnificent collection, and fostering a connection between the visitor and museum for years to come. All of the senses will be engaged as part of the experience. Wonderful day lit staircases lead visitors from floor to floor, the galleries create a comfortable viewing experience of the art, and terraces allow for moments of repose, to be reinvigorated by fresh air, sunlight and vistas of the city between galleries. The visitor should sense that the building is inspired by one of the great cities of the world, San Francisco.”

Visitors are welcomed to the new museum by two main entrances, leading to ground floor exhibition spaces that are free to all. The entrance on Third Street welcomes visitors to the reimagined Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Atrium, where the iconic oculus floods the space with natural light. Alexander Calder’s 27-foot-wide mobile, Untitled (1963), is suspended beneath the oculus, drawing the eye upwards, and a new sculptural stair leads visitors to Helen and Charles Schwab Hall, the main gathering space on the second floor.

On Howard Street, a new museum entrance adjacent to the glass-walled Roberts Family Gallery, allows visitors to enter the museum through Schwab Hall. Now presenting Richard Serra’s monumental sculpture Sequence (2006), the Roberts Family Gallery is a vibrant space visible to passersby, creating a visual connection between the city and the museum and showcasing SFMOMA’s community-focused mission. Inside, a set of maple-faced Roman steps provides an informal public gathering spot and seating area.

From both entrances, stairs lead visitors to Schwab Hall, the hub of the new museum. Visitors can enjoy a rotating installation of artworks, such as Sol LeWitt’s joyful Wall Drawing 895: Loopy Doopy (white and blue) (1999), or obtain admission to explore the rest of the museum. From here, a maple-clad stair leads upward to the third-floor Pritzker Center for Photography and the galleries above.

The new galleries in the Snøhetta-designed expansion are intimate in scale and create ideal conditions for viewing the artworks. Diverse gallery spaces support the display of specific collections and works of various scales. Minimal, flexible, column-free galleries permit countless temporary wall layouts—a blank canvas for the curators. At opening, visitors can experience a contemplative, octagonal-shaped gallery devoted to seven works by Agnes Martin and loft-like galleries on the seventh floor that offer space for contemporary artworks.

Terraces adjacent to many galleries extend exhibitions into the city, displaying outdoor sculptures and offering unparalleled views of San Francisco. The new third-floor Pat and Bill Wilson Sculpture Terrace is home to the largest public living wall in the United States with more than 19,000 plants and 21 native species. This curated sequence of spaces allows visitors to move between incredible artworks to broad overlooks, and enjoy views of the city as they circulate through and up the museum.

Complementing the museum’s incredible art galleries, the new SFMOMA features dynamic educational program and performances. The new Koret Education Center serves students, teachers and lifelong learners with a resource library and studio classrooms. SFMOMA partnered with Bay Area innovator Meyer Sound to install sound solutions throughout the museum, including a state-of-the-art Constellation acoustic system in the newly renovated Phyllis Wattis Theater. The Wattis Theater screens archival film and offers cutting-edge 4K projection. The new Gina and Stuart Peterson White Box is a uniquely flexible space, with a theatrical truss that supports a variety of performances, events or large scale artworks.

The new SFMOMA is on track to receive LEED Gold certification, and is one of the first museums in the country to employ all LED lighting throughout.

Location: San Francisco, US
Client: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Completion: 2016
Gross Floor Area: 26,477 m2
Cost of Construction: 278,178,000 Euro
Architects: Snøhetta
Design Team: Craig Dykers, Lara Kaufman, Aaron Dorf, Simon Ewings, Jon McNeal, Marianne Lau, Samuel Brissette, Chad Carpenter, Behrang Behin, Giancarlo Valle, Aroussiak Gabrielian, Neda Mostafavi, Kyle Johnson, Nick Anderson, Anne Rachel Schiffmann, Nick Koster, Carrie Tsang
Contractor: Webcor Builders

Structural: Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Mechanical & Plumbing: Taylor Engineering
Electrical: The Engineering Enterprise
Civil: KPFF
Façade, Acoustical:  Arup
Lighting: The Engineering Enterprise, Arup
Landscape: Snøhetta

Lighting: iO LED, Feelux, Lucifer, Whitegoods, Kirlin, Xal, LSI Industries, Solavanti Lighting, BK
Lighting, ACDC, Lutron
Curtain Wall: Enclos
Rainscreen Panel: Kreysler & Associates
Perforated Metal Panel: Arktura
Door: Ellison, Dorma, Crown Industrial, Toland, Crown Industrial , Total Doors, Skyfold
Acoustical Ceilings: Pyrok, Rockfon, Geometrik
Glass: Silicon Valley Glass
Suspension Grid: Armstrong


Photography: © Iwan Baan, © Henrik Kam, © Jon McNeal, © Joe Fletcher

Keep up with the latest trends in the architecture and design world

© Maggioli SpA • THE PLAN • Via del Pratello 8 • 40122 Bologna, Italy • T +39 051 227634 • P. IVA 02066400405 • ISSN 2499-6602 • E-ISSN 2385-2054