Menu Back to process Back to news

SFMOMA Expansion

SFMOMA Expansion

Snøhetta’s expansion to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art reimagines SFMOMA as a new art experience and gateway into the city of San Francisco. No longer an inward looking shrine to the art object, a museum today must engage with its local conditions and communities in a proactive way. The new SFMOMA realizes in built form the museum’s goals of being a welcoming center for arts education and an important public space for the Bay area. The new expansion runs contiguously along the back of the existing Mario Botta-designed building which opened in 1995, allowing for a seamless integration of the two structures.

By nearly tripling the amount of exhibition space and expanding the unticketed gallery areas and outdoor public spaces, the expansion allows the museum to be more accessible than ever. The expansion will also enliven the surrounding cityscape by opening up new routes of public circulation throughout the South of Market neighborhood and into the museum.

Landscape, Interior, Renovation & Expansion, Architecture, Museum & Gallery

2010 – completed 2016




San Francisco, California, USA




New: 235 000 ft2, Renovated: 225,000 ft (460,000 ft2 total)


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Associate Architect




Visitors approach the new SFMOMA Expansion from Howard Street. 

View from the top of the roman seating in the Howard Street Gallery on the ground floor.  The space houses Richard Serra's Sequence, and is free and open to the public.

The iconic oculus floods the reimagined atrium with natural light, drawing the eye upwards. A new sculptural stair leads visitors to the main gathering space on the second floor to form a thread of free public art spaces, generously open to anyone during museum hours without need for an entry ticket.

The Main Foyer on the second floor houses all visitors services, orientation and ticketing. The third floor Vertical Garden is visible from the windows above.

The Vertical Sculpture Garden on the 3rd floor has views of Alexander Calder's work in the adjacent gallery, and 5th floor Bridge above, as well as out over Howard Street.

Planting plan for the living wall. Each of number and color patch corresponds to one of 38 different plant species thriving on the vertical garden. With over 16,000 plants, including 24 native species, the wall is the largest of its kind in the Bay Area. 

The individual galleries types are diverse and welcoming, created to support display of specific collections and scales of work. The gallery ceilings vary suit the collection as well - for example, a pure sculpted ceiling for Modern & Contemporary Painting & Sculpture. 

All main galleries in the expansion are connected by a cascading series of stairs along the new facade in a space called the City Gallery that opens to views of downtown and beyond, inspired by the many steep streets and public stairs in San Francisco.

The eastern façade, inspired in part by the waters of the San Francisco Bay, comprises more than 700 uniquely shaped FRP (fiberglass reinforced polymer) panels affixed to a curtain-wall system to create rippling horizontal bands. Silicate crystals from Monterey Bay embedded in the surfaces of the panels catch the changing light and cause the façade to shift in appearance throughout the day.

View from Natoma Street