Handicapping Architect Picks for SFMoMA


The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is gearing up for a major expansion in the form of a new wing to house the collection of GAP founder Donald Fisher. Because hell, why not, the art and architecture press has been bandying about some architecture firm names as possible short list contenders for the project. (Unconfirmed, naturally.) But seeing as how there’s a limited pool for this sort of thing, and even museums in the middle-of-nowhere are snagging starchitects for their renovations, and SFMoMA‘s 1995 building is kind of hideous, we present to you a handicapped guide to the contenders.

The Long Shots

Peter Zumthor — The Swiss architect zoomed from relative obscurity to media prominence in 2009 after winning the much-coveted Pritzker Prize. Though his most well-known design is a thermal spa in an Alpine commune, he’s been under consideration for another high-profile California museum project, a reworking of LACMA in Los Angeles. 35-1

David Adjaye — The Brisith architect has been considered a rising star for several years now, gaining national spotlight last year with the announcement of his commission for the National Museum for African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Adjaye specializes in cultural and public projects. 60-1

Snohetta — Norwegian firm who has designed over 15 cultural institutions, all beautiful but mostly located in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, outside the scope of lean West Coast architecture. Their sleek yet monumental design for the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet won the 2009 Mies van der Rohe Award. 10-1

TEN Arquitectos (Enrique Norten) — Though Norten is considered high-profile (a career retrospective in 2008, museum commissions all over Mexico, several residential designs in New York), his designs are still largely unbuilt, like the ambitious Guggenheim Guadalajara. Norten’s firm certainly has the vision; time will tell how practically his ideas can be translated into bricks and mortar — er, glass and steel. 100-1

The Workhorses

Steven Holl — Steven Holl Architects has built a steady resume of cultural projects that are clean, logical, and mesh with the aesthetic fabric of a given community. The firm is responsible for projects large (the stunning addition to Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas) and small (the irreverent out-of-the-shoebox design for Storefront for Art + Architecture in Manhattan). Architects like him too — Holl has designed several projects for architecture schools including a nifty addition to the Pratt campus in Brooklyn. 3-1

Diller, Scofidio + Renfro –Adept at performing arts spaces (a Julliard renovation, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, that crazy cantilevered auditorium at the ICA in Boston), the firm is known for its interdisciplinary approach to architecture. DS+R was the first architecture outfit to win the MacArthur Prize, and let’s not forget a little project called the High Line. 12-1

The Visionaries

Office for Metropolitan Architecture (Rem Koolhaas) — Koolhaas designs in equal part of form and function, style and substance. Fashion collaborations like that with Prada add a cool, streamlined sheen to the architecture of urban places. He’s an artist equally well-suited to corporate identities, constructing Beijing’s already-iconic CCTV Tower. 50-1

The Iconoclasts

Renzo Piano — Renzo Piano and his Building Workshop are the quintessential museum architects: Atlanta’s High Museum, the de Menil Collection in Texas, Zentrum Paul Klee, the much-contested Broad Contemporary Art Museum in LA, a Morgan Library addition, and even Centre Pompidou (for chrissakes). Piano’s aesthetic delves from crisp and efficient to organic to super high-tech. 8-1

Foster and Partners — That’s Sir Norman Foster to you. The massively prolific British architect has had a hand in designing a hefty percentage of the world’s most high-profile projects since the inception of his practice in 1967: an expansion for the British Museum, the eco-friendly Hearst Publications tower, the Canary Wharf tube station in London, the Reichstag dome, and the list goes on. He can even build small, taking on an art gallery commission on the Bowery, set to open this year. 20-1

The new wing is projected for completion at five to six years at the earliest, so there’s time still for speculation. Who would you like to see submit a bid?