May 30, 2013
View of the expansion from Yerba Buena, across Third Street.
Back in 1995, when SFMOMA opened its granite-and-brick building in San Francisco’s South of Market district, the museum was an early cultural presence in a transitioning industrial area. “We were pioneers in this neighborhood,” museum director Neal Benezra said at Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the much-anticipated expansion by Snøhetta. Back then, Mario Botta’s fortress of patterned brick worked well on a street where there was little else to connect to.
Eighteen years later, the museum has grown—with two or three times its original collection and programming, said Benezra—and the neighborhood along with it. South of Market is now the home of Twitter and a host of other tech companies, and with the Transbay Transit Center going up in its back yard, SFMOMA is not one to miss out on the neighborhood’s latest growth spurt. The expansion includes a 10-story tower in rippling lightweight concrete tucked behind the Botta building, along with new pedestrian entrances from alleyways and a 50-foot-tall green wall on a neighboring parking garage. When the building opens in early 2016, the museum will double its current exhibition capacity and add 41,000 square feet of unticketed public space.
After remarks from Benezra, board chair Charles Schwab, and Mayor Ed Lee, Snøhetta principal Craig Dykers took the stage. He described the expansion’s progress in an elaborate birthing metaphor, a process instigated by dozens of consultants engaged in architectural “polyamory.” Whatever the means, this new stepchild will make an extrovert out of the Botta building. “The museum, which was once introverted, will be open to passersby,” said Dykers. Whether the ensuing burst of silver confetti was meant to signal the beginning of labor—or some sort of giant collective archigasm—we’ll never be sure! Read more.
Photo © Drew Altizer Photography