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Monday, December 25, 2023

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ( SFMOMA)

  Rajesh Kumar Rana       Monday, December 25, 2023


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ( SFMOMA)
Jeremy Thompson/ flickr
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art One of the main and most popular attractions in San Francisco is the Museum of Modern Art and this is undoubtedly one of the most interesting museums in the city, as well as one of the best art museums in the United States.

The Museum of Modern Art - History and Mario Botta: Architecture, projects and works:

The museum was founded in 1935 as the Art Museum of San Francisco on the initiative of the famous museologist and expert in contemporary art, Gray Morley, and it was she who became its first director, holding this position for 23 years. Since its inception, the museum has been located on the fourth floor of the Veterans War Memorial on Van Ness Avenue, and in 1995 moved to a specially built building on Third Street - a very original structure designed by the talented Swiss architect Mario Botta. In 2013-2016, a new building was built next to the architectural masterpiece of Mario Botta, which made it possible to almost double the museum area and add new exhibition halls, modern auditoriums for lectures and seminars, etc.

In 1994, Mario Botta completed work on San Francisco's premier art museum, which had been going on since 1990. At the same time, Botta was engaged in several other projects, where the theme of the truncated cylinder was played up in different variations as the main visual accent. The total area of ​​the building is 18,500 square meters, of which 5,000 square meters is exhibition space. The collection of the museum contains more than 26,000 works it contains works of such important artists in the world culture of the twentieth century as Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Diego Rivera, Edward Weston and many others. Among American museums, the collection of the Museum in San Francisco is considered the second most important and is second only to the New York Museum of Modern Art.

 The architecture of Mario Botta is majestic and monumental. There are always various objective reasons for this monumentality. In this case, the basis was a dialogue with the historic Art Deco skyscraper, against which the new museum was set up. The expressive silhouette of the high-rise building, rich plastic and fine detailing of its facades set a very high standard for the entire environment. Neighboring towers of later times are no less majestic, but they lose to their early counterparts in the magnificence and completeness of the artistic solution.

 In his project, Mario Botta chose spectacular geometry as the main technique a hierarchical and symmetrical volumetric structure, albeit much smaller in scale compared to a skyscraper, has comparable volume divisions. Due to these enlarged elements, the dialogue between the old and the new is on an equal footing in the relatively small museum building. 

 Botta enhances the impression of his building thanks to the color against the background of monochrome skyscrapers, the building looks really impressive and attractive. The new museum building has a striking appearance and character. The branded cut-off cylinder here seems grandiose in comparison with its counterparts in modest European chapels. The townspeople called the memorable fa├žade “the eye of the Cyclops”, which inside the room turns into a giant illuminated lantern that illuminates the central communicative space of the museum. The cylinder became the organizing core of the composition of the California Museum, while also forming the adjacent urban space.

 Botta used a striking contrast of white and gray stone in the facing of the cylinder itself, contrasting it with the main terracotta color of the rest of the building. The gray-white contrast is maintained in the interior, where streams of light pour through the sloping ceiling. This light permeates all five floors of the building, covering not only the central space within the cylinder, but also the galleries of the upper floors. Most of the rest of the museum's exhibits are also naturally lit thanks to the original skylights, the rhythm and configuration of which give the interiors additional dynamics.

 In juxtaposing the details of the new building and the historic skyscraper in the neighborhood, one can feel the postmodern irony and ambiguity of aesthetic meanings, but the logic of the functional connections of museum spaces shows the architect's extremely respectful and serious attitude to the heritage of modernism. Spectacular staircases, internal round windows and suspended skylights are more postmodern, while the laconic color palette of the interiors is a tribute to modernist traditions.

 There is always dignity and a certain restraint in the architecture of Mario Botta. We can say that in working with form and space as the fundamental initial values ​​for an architect, he is a consistent successor of the traditions of modernism. Botta is not fond of newfangled games with excessively bright acid colors, media technologies that modify facades during the day, and so on. In his performance, the architecture is somewhat static and conditional in a good way, since the structure sets the tone for its surroundings, without exerting an overwhelming effect. Botta's buildings are a kind of sculpture that looks expressive from different angles.

 The architect has developed several recognizable techniques to best reflect his creative views. In the buildings of Mario Botta, there is always a noble and rich, but not deliberately provocative color and often a contrast, which enhance the plasticity of the forms and highlight the features of the materials. Botta's architecture is emphatically material, it claims to be consciously truthful and the maximum naturalness of its forms. The desired effect is achieved through the use of natural, often from local finishing materials, which create the impression of a particular reliability and appropriateness of the building exactly where it was placed by the architect.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ( SFMOMA)
Scott Vachalek/flickr/share & like
Museum of Contemporary Art in Urban Development

 In an urban environment, it is always an echo with elements of the surrounding environment, in a natural landscape - a dialogue with natural textures. Rhythm in architecture is of tremendous importance for Botta. In his works, we see ubiquitous rhythmic games and conventional rows of elements, sometimes lined up in several rhythmic rows with different steps. Window openings, various formats of repeating elements, color ranges in decoration, reliance on the visual perception of the size of structural elements of a structure, etc.  All these are the tools with which Botta creates a unique look for his works.

 Having developed such a recognizable author's architectural language, the architect manages to give each of his buildings elements based on the peculiarities of the local color. The Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco fully reveals the elements of his own understanding of the semantics of architectural signs and techniques found by the author non-trivial mismatched windows, skylights and color quotes. There is a lot of color in the building, but not excessively, it is enough to affect the monochrome high-rise environment.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ( SFMOMA)
Jeremy Thompson/ flickr
Fragment of the museum interior inside the cylindrical volume Balcony under the cylindrical volume

 Later, in a different, diverse setting - in Charlotte, Botta uses a much brighter shade of red to highlight the museum entrance and draw attention to the building. This decision seems rather aggressive, but it is rather an exception in the work of the Swiss. It is the natural colors that are the favorite of the master, since only with them is the visual authenticity of the perception of materials achieved.

 In the neutral and not so dense and high surroundings of the Jean Tinguely Museum, Botta begins to work with muted facades and completely monochrome white interiors. This is quite justified, because in the museum the exhibits themselves serve as the color accents of the halls - gears and wheels, exhibited as art objects.

 For a Swiss architect, it is not particularly important to reflect in architecture various eco-technologies that turn a man-made building into a symbiotic technogenic and biological object. In his understanding, an architectural structure is still a full-fledged alternative to nature, created by the architect in accordance with the functional need, the wishes of the customer and his own creative principles.

 Despite the obvious success and popularity of Botta's architectural experiment, or maybe thanks to him, after 15 years of operation, the museum began to lack exhibition space, so it was decided to modernize and develop the museum complex by adding a new building to the Botta building. The Snohetta Bureau presented its project to transform the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.

 The project provides for the construction of another building, which will double the exhibition area of ​​the museum. Although the new volume of the museum will be located on the rear facade of the Botta building and will stretch along the block in a southeast direction, such a decision risks seriously disrupting the system of visual accents and visual reference points, thought out by the architect in accordance with the specifics of the environment. The elongated and narrow rectangular block of Snohetta will be 15 meters taller than the existing building. Snohetta's architects claim that their creation will act as a neutral backdrop for the construction of Botta, and, according to the new project, a promenade with multi-level staircases and courtyards will appear along the main Bottawa facade, which will connect and diversify the adjacent streets.

 The entrance to the new building and the glazed exhibition hall of the building should make the museum complex more democratic and more open to the city, which is very fashionable in museum construction of the 21st century. However, this seeming and deliberate democracy can irrevocably destroy such a logical and verified order of Botta's plan, which brought world recognition to the building of the California Museum.

How to get there:

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is located in the north of the city at the intersection of 3rd and Minna Streets.

There is a lot of transport in this area, within walking distance there is a suburban train station "Montgomery Street". It serves trains on the blue, green, red and yellow lines. Trains can be reached from the farthest areas, as well as from Dublin, Fremont, Hayward, Richmond, Oakland and San Francisco Airport.

Public transport:

We are located nearest Powell Street and Montgomery Street BART and SF Muni Light Rail stations, and Powell Street and California Street cable cars. Bus stops are located nearby at Mission Street, Howard Street, Third Street, and Second Street.

Further information on public transit can be found at

There are bus stops in the streets adjacent to the museum:

ost. Mission Street and Howard Street - flights number 8, 8AX, 8BX, 30, 45, 81X, 91;

ost. Third Street and Second Street - flights # 10, 12, 14, 14R, 14X, 30, 70, 101, 101X, 292, 397, 398.

The Museum of Contemporary Art has its own covered parking lot - motorists do not need to worry about their car. Find San Francisco Museum of Modern Art parking options through

City taxi services - Uber, Lyft, Yellow Cab, CityWide Taxi, Town Taxi, SFO Taxi, American Taxicab will quickly and comfortably deliver to the desired place.

Opening hours of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and tickets:

You can visit the institution on any day of the week, except Wednesday. The museum is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00, on Thursday until 21:00.

SFMOMA is very popular and there are often queues for tickets, especially on weekends. Therefore, it is recommended to buy tickets in advance and online.

Ticket price:

adults - $ 25

seniors (65 years and older) - $ 22

students (from 19 to 24 years old) - $ 19

children (18 years old and under) - free.

Buy a ticket to the museum online.

 AddressUnited States, California, San Francisco, 3rd St, 151


In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art regularly hosts specialized temporary exhibitions, conferences, thematic lectures and seminars. The management of the museum pays special attention to the development of general education programs for schoolchildren.

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