Museum of Modern Art,
San Francisco , USA     1989-1995
with Hellmuth, 
Obata and Kassabaum , Inc. SF

Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco , USA
with Hellmuth,Obata and Kassabaum , Inc. SF



151 Third Street, Yerba Buena center, San Francisco

Commissioned by
Museum of Modern Art Foundation, San Francisco

Project management
Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum Inc., SF

Surface area
18,500 m²

100,000 m³

60 x 83 m, height 44 m

The situation of the museum building on a plot surrounded by a three high-rise blocks encouraged the adoption of a particularly powerful image, while at the same time  avoiding and direct-and inevitably disadvantageous - comparison with its surroundings. The scheme was carried out with three declared objectives:

-Natural lighting, in spite of the unfavourable one-to-four relationship between the area of the site and total built surface called for by the programme.

-The creation of a unitary interior image.

-The construction of an external skin which, the opposite of a shell, effectively leaves the building  faceless, thus stimulating visitors to enter.

The stepped facade to the fore, finished with brick, accommodates the series of exhibition  spaces, all lit from above. This facade opens up in the center to reveal the presence of the cylindrical volume clad with bands of marble in two colours. This totem-like figure is cut off at a slanting angle at the top, emerging from the roof with an oblique transparent plane which captures the natural light and conducts it down into the spacious cavity in the centre of the building, around which are ordered the distribution routes giving access to the exhibition rooms.