San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
A Bay Area cultural catalyst


Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Architecture


Snøhetta has reimagined the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as a new art experience and gateway into the city. No longer an inward looking shrine to various art objects, the museum has been transformed for its dynamic urban contact to engage surrounding streets while contributing to the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood’s social life. 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. Snøhetta’s expansion runs contiguously along the back of the existing Mario Botta-designed building which opened in 1995, allowing for the seamless integration of the two structures.

Technical details

Art, Installation & Exhibition, Museum & Gallery, Renovation & Expansion
San Francisco, California, USA

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art



New: 235 000 ft2, Renovated: 225,000 ft2 (460,000 ft2 total)
Design Architect, Landscape Architect, Interior Architect


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

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

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.