• 03.22.10

SFMOMA’s Expansion Plans are Shockingly Safe

Did anyone not see it coming? SFMOMA taps OMA, DS+R, Steven Holl, and everyone else you thought they would for their ambitious expansion.


After his dream for a museum in the Presidio went nowhere, Gap founder Don Fisher turned his 1,100-piece contemporary art collection over to SFMOMA. It’ll make SFMOMA into an art-world force on the level of MOMA or the Tate Modern, and as such, it’ll need its own flashy new box. As if trying to prove it can play with the big boys, SFMOMA picked an utterly predictable shortlist of potential designers for the 225,000-square-foot expansion. The was leaked to Curbed and as yet is unconfirmed by the museum. Here they are:


David Adjaye, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Steven Holl, Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Snøhetta, and Renzo Piano. New York-based Gluckman Mayner Architects, who designed the much-reviled Presidio proposal, didn’t make the cut.

SFMOMA’s current building, opened in 1995 and designed by Mario Botta, is a beacon of weirdness in a city with its share of odd buildings. Its solid brick tiers, gray-and-black-striped granite oculus, and black-hole-like central staircase make it charmingly bizarre, but easy to hate. Director Neal Benezra took a jab at Botta, saying his design “talks about the museum’s ambitions in 1995.” Obviously, times have changed, but can’t SFMOMA hold on to its quirks? It’s unlikely. The Architect’s Newspaper‘s San Francisco editor Lydia Lee published her dream list of local architects, including techno-conceptualists like IwamotoScott and Ogrydziak/Prillinger. But the museum’s picks are all international stars — practically household names. They’re great architects, to be sure, but totally obvious. Renzo Piano cranks out spare, tasteful museum after spare, tasteful museum, from the Morgan Library to LACMA to the Art Institute of Chicago. Steven Holl’s Nelson-Atkins Museum addition in Kansas City marked the apex of the stateside rush for the next Bilbao. Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s pop-out observation decks are, well, popping out everywhere from the Harbor to the High Line. Isn’t it time for a new breed?