LMN Celebrates the Reopening of the Seattle Asian Art Museum


Seattle Asian Art Museum


Seattle, Washington – February 3, 2020 – LMN Architects is pleased to celebrate the reopening of the Seattle Asian Art Museum on February 8, 2020. Harmonizing with the 1933 Bebb and Gould designed Art Deco building, the renovation and expansion of the Asian Art Museum is concurrently composed to integrate into the Olmsted designed landscape of Volunteer Park.

The design represents the first substantial renovation, addition, and the seamless integration of the building’s spectacular site with the museum’s mission for the 21st century: to showcase Asian art in conjunction with contemporary educational and conservation spaces.

The museum will begin welcoming the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 8 am on Saturday, February 8. In evidence of public excitement for the reopening, all 10,000 free, timed tickets have been claimed for the weekend celebration. The museum’s regular hours will begin on February 12, including four new free days every month.

“We could not be more excited to open the doors of the museum and welcome everyone back,” said Amada Cruz, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). “The new and refreshed galleries designed by LMN Architects will display art from the collection that has never been on view before, and the resonant themes of the installation will provoke delight and curiosity alike. The new connections to and views of Volunteer Park are stunning. We are grateful to the city of Seattle and the staff and supporters of SAM, as well as SAM’s retired director, Kimerly Rorschach, whose extraordinary dedication brought this project to fruition.”

Sam Miller, Partner-in-Charge, comments: “The design developed by LMN Architects took in consideration various technical needs, including mechanical and electrical systems, accessibility, seismic improvements, and all other needs for a contemporary art environment. These program requirements, as well as new areas for visitors, additional space for special exhibitions, and offices for staff were important considerations in the final design.”

A set of steps lead to the Art Deco lobby entrance on the west side of the building. Once inside, the Entry Lobby connects to the Fuller Garden Court and unfolds into the new Park Lobby. All three spaces create a new circulation spine joining the building with the park, and the park with the building. The renovation and addition reaffirms the original character of the Fuller Garden Court as the central hub of the museum which not only provides access to the gallery spaces, but also establishes a sense of expectation that is reinforced by the two new portals that open to the Park Lobby. The new lobby is the vertical connector to new program spaces and is composed mostly of glass, giving the impression that the space is floating in the landscape.

Wendy Pautz, Design Partner, comments: “The existing building is a local treasure for the city. Our main goal was to restore the building back to its original splendor, but with changes that allow the museum to be successful in the future and meet conservation and curatorial goals within the existing fabric of the original building. Another important goal was to have the museum more connected to the community and be more open and expressive of what is happening inside. Now, everyone in the park can get a sense of what is happening within and the contemporary addition creates new opportunities for serendipitous social interactions inside the museum.”

The circulation interconnects each volume, ultimately connecting everything to the park and the original elements. The Entrance Level encompasses all lobbies, existing gallery spaces, and an all-new 2,658 sq. ft. gallery which adds significant additional space for the museum. The Ground Level and Basement Level have a similar building program composed of ancillary spaces, art storage, meeting spaces, and offices. The Ground Level also contains a library, conservation studio, 201-seat auditorium, and a community education space.

Pamela Trevithick, Principal, comments: “The idea that the original building had daylight incorporated was an important catalyst for some of our design decisions. Since the original building was about connecting with the exterior, we approached the interior design focused on connecting with the outside environment. Our approach to the space, the experience, materiality and texture, and the attitude to daylight allow for a unified experience with subtle interventions between the existing building and the new addition.”

The renovation provides daylight to the octagonal galleries with light boxes built into the ceiling that emulate natural daylight while providing the museum with a modern lighting system. This artificial lighting allows the museum to set the stage for new art, better preserve their collection, and provide newfound flexibility for future displays.

Wendy Pautz, Design Partner, comments: “The experience of the building brings the art deco structure back to its origins, but enhanced with new surprises and the three-story addition we designed. The new modern gallery and Park Lobby are built around the trees and create a new experience with the park elements. We worked to open the building to the park, so as you circulate through the addition the architecture creates a stronger connection with the nature around the site and shows the activity that is happening within the museum.”

The building components and the interior spaces have been renovated and organized to maximize program space and functionality as well as take advantage of their own tectonic identity. In addition to the façade restoration work, major upgrades were completed to the walls, floors, and ceiling elements in the existing galleries to modernize the space to be structurally sound and meet code requirements.

Sam Miller, Partner-in-Charge, comments: “To work on a historic building like this is a real privilege and honor. It is part of the legacy of Seattle and we hope everyone sees we treated the existing building with care and respect, and enhanced the facility with the addition to make it so that viewing art is better than it has ever been. The focus of our work at LMN Architects is about making great social experiences, but it is primarily about connecting to community. We hope the addition adds significance to the original historic building, and we are very excited for everyone to visit the museum and experience the renovation and addition for themselves.”

The Seattle Asian Art Museum honors and preserves the architectural legacy of the historic building and integrity of the Park while providing space for deeper explorations of the diverse, artistic, and cultural traditions of Asia. The new addition of a dedicated community education space provides visitors enjoyment and access to public programming and community events. The new expanded and renovated gallery space enables the museum to showcase more of its permanent collection and organize special exhibitions offering broader perspectives on Asia’s traditions and contemporary issues. Reflecting a complex organization of requirements, the museum integrates nature, architecture, history, and art in a poetic and intimate scale.

LMN Architects is a leader in the design of civic and cultural projects across the United States. The firm has designed a number of important projects in Seattle, including Benaroya Hall, McCaw Hall, the Washington State Convention Center Addition, the Museum of History & Industry, and are currently designing the Seattle Aquarium Ocean Pavilion to be located on the waterfront.

Learn more about the project here.