A Rare Glimpse Inside the New SFMOMA

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By Paige Alexus
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The city of San Francisco has been eagerly awaiting the reopening of SFMOMA for years—and as the May 14th opening approaches closer everyday, the anticipation continues to build for art enthusiasts both near and far. This morning, we were given the opportunity to explore the newly expanded space before the crowds roll in. After a series of speeches, remarks, and tours, we left the grounds feeling thoroughly inspired and excited to share what we discovered.

Working with the original Mario Botta-designed building, the ten-story expansion includes a new dedication to providing communal outdoor spaces. This includes 170,000 square feet of new and renovated indoor and outdoor galleries dedicated to the museum's cherished collections. Photo courtesy of SFMOMA.

Working with the original Mario Botta-designed building, the ten-story expansion includes a new dedication to providing communal outdoor spaces. This includes 170,000 square feet of new and renovated indoor and outdoor galleries dedicated to the museum's cherished collections. Photo courtesy of SFMOMA.

The incredible new space was designed by Snøhetta, a multidisciplinary creative studio that focuses on collaborative projects in the worlds of architecture, landscape, and brand design. For them, it’s all about a sense of place, and this project was no exception as the culture of San Francisco was taken into account throughout the entire process.

The facade owes its sculptural nature to a series of locally produced slabs that were pieced together intricately in a way that makes them look as if they're undulating. Built with the expertise of Kreysler and Associates, Snohetta's design was inspired by San Francisco's surrounding waters and the maritime climate that defines the city. Kreysler and Associates utilized their experience with unconventional materials to build about 700 installable composite panels that are lightweight and fire-resistant.

The facade owes its sculptural nature to a series of locally produced slabs that were pieced together intricately in a way that makes them look as if they're undulating. Built with the expertise of Kreysler and Associates, Snohetta's design was inspired by San Francisco's surrounding waters and the maritime climate that defines the city. Kreysler and Associates utilized their experience with unconventional materials to build about 700 installable composite panels that are lightweight and fire-resistant.

The morning kicked off with speeches from a couple of the Board of Trustee's members as well as a final welcoming from Ruth Berson, the Deputy Museum Director of Curatorial Affairs. Additionally, we were excited to hear some behind-the-scenes insight from Snøhetta's founding partner Craig Dykers. As the lead behind the design, he explained his dedication to creating an intimate space that really connects with its visitors and its host city. He pointed out that each floor holds its own experience with a unique layout that includes sensory engagement, comfortable viewing areas, and various connections to the outdoors. He finished his speech by urging us to "take the stairs, please!" As we were prompted to begin wandering around on our own, the reasoning behind this request became clear, as each and every stairway is a work of art on its own.  

Two aspects that the morning's speakers were ecstatic to share included the facts that they're offering free access to the ground-floor galleries—45,000 square feet to be exact—as well as free admission for visitors 18 and under. The new entrance features Richard Serra's epic sculpture Sequence, which was created in 2006.

Two aspects that the morning's speakers were ecstatic to share included the facts that they're offering free access to the ground-floor galleries—45,000 square feet to be exact—as well as free admission for visitors 18 and under. The new entrance features Richard Serra's epic sculpture Sequence, which was created in 2006.

Throughout the new space, maple-clad stairs lead visitors to different galleries. Each one is unique and is flooded with natural light that streams through windows from various directions.

Throughout the new space, maple-clad stairs lead visitors to different galleries. Each one is unique and is flooded with natural light that streams through windows from various directions.

Standing proud in one of the outdoor spaces is Alexander Calder's Big Crinkly, an animated painted metal sculpture from 1969. Visitors can wander freely around this piece in an area that's framed by a wall of lush greenery.

Standing proud in one of the outdoor spaces is Alexander Calder's Big Crinkly, an animated painted metal sculpture from 1969. Visitors can wander freely around this piece in an area that's framed by a wall of lush greenery.

A number of outdoor terraces allow visitors to take a refreshing rest between galleries. Sculptural structures form a curated and fluent experience, as seen above.

A number of outdoor terraces allow visitors to take a refreshing rest between galleries. Sculptural structures form a curated and fluent experience, as seen above.

In a special area dedicated to design and architecture, we came across the exhibition titled Carve, Cast, Mold, Print: Material Meditations. It's defined by a study of forward-thinking seating designs that each focus on an interesting use of a singular material and process.

In a special area dedicated to design and architecture, we came across the exhibition titled Carve, Cast, Mold, Print: Material Meditations. It's defined by a study of forward-thinking seating designs that each focus on an interesting use of a singular material and process.

In an adjacent room, various forms of experimental architecture are explored with renderings, sculptures, models, and sketches. Shown here is Neil M. Denari's model for Prototype House, Tokyo, created from 1992 to 1993. Though this design was never actually built, it represented his idea of creating "living machines" as a solution to confined urban living.

In an adjacent room, various forms of experimental architecture are explored with renderings, sculptures, models, and sketches. Shown here is Neil M. Denari's model for Prototype House, Tokyo, created from 1992 to 1993. Though this design was never actually built, it represented his idea of creating "living machines" as a solution to confined urban living.

On view until October 2nd is a sculptural and layered exhibit by Leonor Antunes, a Portuguese artist who explores the effects that memory and time have on an experience. She utilized an intriguing mix of materials including leather, nylon yarn, hemp rope, cork, stainless steel, and brass.

On view until October 2nd is a sculptural and layered exhibit by Leonor Antunes, a Portuguese artist who explores the effects that memory and time have on an experience. She utilized an intriguing mix of materials including leather, nylon yarn, hemp rope, cork, stainless steel, and brass.

Another experiential room included Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing 273. Originally imagined by LeWitt in 1975, the intersecting lines were drawn on the walls with graphite and crayon. With a set of instructions on how to apply the design, it was devised to be implemented into any location and to respond to different light and dimensions. Thus, these lines will be painted over when the exhibition ends. 

Another experiential room included Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing 273. Originally imagined by LeWitt in 1975, the intersecting lines were drawn on the walls with graphite and crayon. With a set of instructions on how to apply the design, it was devised to be implemented into any location and to respond to different light and dimensions. Thus, these lines will be painted over when the exhibition ends. 

It just so happens that today was sunny as could be, and the atrium that marks the center of the building was taking it all in. The sculptural design features a bridge connecting two different gallery floors and a series of geometric windows that create a playful collection of shadows.

It just so happens that today was sunny as could be, and the atrium that marks the center of the building was taking it all in. The sculptural design features a bridge connecting two different gallery floors and a series of geometric windows that create a playful collection of shadows.