Swinerton In the News

San Francisco: July 12, 2018

Exclusive: Asian Art Museum to break ground on $38 million expansion

The Asian Art Museum is kicking off construction on a $38 million expansion fueled by a $90 million fundraising campaign.

The museum is doing demolition and prep work to start construction on its expansion and renovation, which will allow it to present multiple exhibitions at the same time and give it space to display large-scale contemporary artwork. The overhaul will also boost the museum’s use of technology to engage visitors, and a revamped Koret Education Center will serve the 40,000 students and teachers that visit yearly.

The project is among a handful of Civic Center projects — including new playgrounds and a Bi-Rite cafe — that the city is pushing as it seeks to transform this troubled pocket of San Francisco.  

The expansion, slated to finish in early 2020, includes a 13,000-square-foot exhibition pavilion along the back of the museum, which faces Hyde Street. Above the pavilion, an art terrace with a sculptures garden will serve as additional event space.

“I can’t think of a more dynamic neighborhood than Civic Center now,” said Tim Hallman, the museum’s director of communications. “It has the grit of the Tenderloin, the glamour and culture of art, of the opera, symphony and ballet, and the bureaucracy of the courts and City Hall. It has Mid-Market with its tech influx, and that’s created interesting energy in the neighborhood. The idea that the museum is helping to shape the neighborhood is exciting.”

Los Angeles-based architect firm wHY — which is behind the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles,  Christie’s West Coast flagship in Beverly Hills and the Gagosian Gallery in San Francisco — designed the project, which is being built by Swinerton.  

Former Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and his wife Akiko Yamazaki, who sits on the museum’s board, kickstarted the project with a $25 million donation. The museum is now under way on completing its $90 million fundraising campaign. The campaign will allow the museum to fund the pavilion and transformation of other public spaces for $38 million, spend another $27 million on exhibition and program development and funnel $25 million to its endowment.



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Hallman said that the expanding programming will bring more people to the neighborhood. The museum already saw a surge of visitors this spring after it re-opened its cafe, now run by the Boba Guys and Chef Deuki Hong of pop-up Sunday Bird.

The museum left Golden Gate Park in 2001 for the 1917 beaux arts building in the Civic Center that was originally the city’s main library. Randy Shaw, a Tenderloin activist and executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, said after the museum re-opened in 2003 at its current home, it struggled to attract tourists to the area.

"The museum needed to make itself more of a destination," said Shaw. “The restaurant they brought in is a real plus, and the park activity is a real plus."

He said the city’s Civic Center Commons strategy to enliven the neighborhood is starting to pay off, but that the sidewalks along Hyde and Fulton streets remain a problem. Shaw said the museum renovation will help activate those spaces. The art terrace and pavilion overlook Hyde street and will allow visitors to look out and pedestrians to look in.

"The Hyde street side is just dead now, and it’s going to come alive," he added.

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