The new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expansion opened this year and continues to be a wonderful part of the City's center. The collections are outstanding and diverse, including special photography, film and graphics exhibitions in addition to the Fisher collection. I had a chance to spend a few hours in the new gallery spaces and lobbies recently and have attempted brief observations concerning the new architecture.
The addition is a welcome experiment in urban design, occupying a non-traditional edge at the back of the original museum. The alley-like new entrance creates a vertical space within the City that is further enhanced by the rippled facade and stacked lobbies and circulation spaces that define one edge. While the overall effect and urban solution is thoughtful, other architectural elements are perhaps less successful. The galleries and circulation spaces are plain and without day-lighting, in particular the galleries at the top floor. Although day-lit galleries are a tradition of modern art museums, curators may have wanted to avoid them for obvious reason. Down near the street, the main lobbies, old and new, connect in exciting ways at the first and second levels through urban gymnastics. Here the detail quality is somewhat lacking, at the stairways in particular, which appear to be the opportunity for care in their resolution.
A stop at the roof garden addition completed several years ago by Jensen Architects, offers a contrast in detail quality to the new expansion. The roof garden pavilion and courtyard are excellently detailed and a nice achievement. The roof garden is also a great place to view the new expansion wall and alley space from above the street and decompress between gallery stops. Despite the criticisms, I think the new SF MOMA builds upon a participatory type of urban design and forms an important slice of the City, worthy of many more visits.