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8 things to know about the Asian Art Museum expansion

Proposed addition is now larger, more expensive, and comes with a rooftop terrace

Renderings via wHY

San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum released new details about its $90 million expansion this week. The Civic Center institution, boasting one of the most expansive Asian art collections in the world, gears up to update its historic yet confined space.

Here’s what to expect for the future of the West Coast/far east culture hub:

  • The new expansion breaks ground soon. Construction should begin in early 2018 with hopes to open to the public by summer of 2019.
  • It will add 13,000 square feet of additional exhibition space. The current designs call for a “pavilion and art terrace” on the museum’s Hyde Street side. The art terrace, located on the rooftop, will measure roughly 7,500 square feet. It will be a “venue for contemporary sculpture and commissioned installations.”
  • Plans have gotten a little more ambitious. In 2016 the museum hoped to build a 12,000-square-foot addition with a smaller budget and told Curbed SF that they were only going for the rooftop terrace if they could come up with the funds.
  • The museum will not close. Rather, it will remain open throughout construction, but certain galleries will close at different times to accommodate the work.
  • Less than half of the money goes toward construction. Although the museum frames the project as “a $90 million investment,” it will spent only $38 million on the expansion itself, with the rest going toward endowment and exhibition programs.
  • It’s fairly modest compared to expansions at other San Francisco museums. SFMOMA, for example, closed for years, spent over $300 million, and created a building more than triple the size of the its original space. By comparison, the Asian Art Museum will receive more of a nip and a tuck rather than an overhaul.
  • The architect’s designs have changed. In the summer of 2016, the architecture firm wHY released designs by Kulapat Yantrasast that included a big, spidery canopy facing Hyde Street. In the latest round of renderings that’s gone, replaced by a much more solid and conservative look.
  • The Asian Art Museum building is more than a century old. The Larkin Street structure that now houses the museum was once the Main Library. And as a historic asset, it can only be altered so much. This accounts for its somewhat awkward layout, with disconnected gallery spaces surrounding a huge central vault middle space.