Familiar list of architects for SFMOMA expansion


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As it plans an addition to its 1995 Mario Botta-designed home, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is reportedly considering a list of architects heavy on bold-faced names.

According to pieces in the San Francisco Business Journal and the website Curbed SF, the firms the museum is considering, at least preliminarily, for the project include those run by Renzo Piano, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Zumthor, David Adjaye and Steven Holl. Though neither publication published a complete list, none of the names to emerge is a Bay Area firm. The other office names leaked so far are TEN Arquitectos, run by Enrique Norten; London’s Foster and Partners; Norway’s Snohetta; and New York’s Diller, Scofidio & Renfro.


My quick reaction to the group of firms is that it is heavy on talent and museum experience but also predictable; with the exception of Zumthor and Adjaye, whose global profiles have grown significantly in recent years, most of the other names could easily have been expected to have surfaced in a similar story in 2005 -- or even 2000, for that matter.

The names will also be familiar to museum officials in Los Angeles. The L.A. County Museum alone has worked with three of the firms: Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture, which won a competition for a new LACMA campus that was abandoned in 2002; Renzo Piano Building Workshop, which replaced Koolhaas to produce the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and has another gallery building for LACMA, the Resnick Pavilion, nearing completion; and the office of Peter Zumthor, the Swiss architect who has been working on further expansion plans with LACMA director Michael Govan.

SFMOMA is planning to grow in part to make room for the collection of the Gap founder Donald Fisher, who had at one time hoped to build a separate museum for his artwork in San Francisco’s Presidio, a former military base. Fisher’s chosen architect was Richard Gluckman of the firm Gluckman Mayner, an art-world stalwart. But the Presidio plan was met with serious community opposition, and in September Fisher and wife Doris announced that they’d instead give the collection to SFMOMA. Donald Fisher died just two days after news of the gift was made public. The new wing is expected to open five or six years from now at the earliest.

UPDATE: David Meckel, who is advising the museum’s selection committee, emails to say that SFMOMA officials haven’t formally ‘released a list. They are communicating with various architects, who obviously are talking to other folks.’ The committee, he added, is vetting firms and will ‘try to narrow their list down through an interview process with the idea of getting to two or three that they will then examine more closely.’

-- Christopher Hawthorne