Seattle Asian Art Museum - Interior

Seattle Asian Art Museum


Seattle, Washington


Seattle Art Museum

Collaborators +

Owner's Representative: OAC Services, Inc.

General Contractor: BNBuilders, Inc.

Structural Engineering: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

MEP Engineering: Rushing

Civil Engineering: Coughlin Porter Lundeen

Landscape Architecture: Walker Macy

Lighting Design: Fisher Marantz Stone

Historic Preservation: BOLA Architecture and Planning

Project Size

New area: 13,905 square feet

Renovated area: 50,345 square feet

Project Status



Certified LEED Commercial Interiors Gold


Architecture, Interior Design, Planning, Renovation + Adaptive Reuse

A treasured historic building in a landmarked Olmsted designed city park, the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s expansion and renovation inaugurates a new era for one of the few museums in North America dedicated exclusively to Asian art. The project marks the first substantial renovation of the landmarked, Art Deco building since its construction in 1933. The expansion and renovation restored the historic structure, modernized the original galleries, and added a new gallery, education space, conservation lab, and community art gallery. The project preserves the building’s architectural legacy while enhancing the museum’s capacity to support its growing collections and fosters a more inclusive relationship with the Seattle community.

The modern addition enhances the Fuller Garden Court, the historic building’s central hub, and provides access to galleries from multiple points. This is accomplished by the introduction of two new portals connected to a new Park Lobby, providing an additional access path through the new gallery. The historic entry, Fuller Garden Court, and the Park Lobby create a circulation spine with views of the park, rejuvenating the building’s connection to the park and the community.

The updated and expanded museum allows for the exhibition of art that has never been on view before and supports a significant recent focus on acquisitions of historic, modern, and contemporary Asian art. The renovation and expansion create the opportunity for the museum to honor its mission, tell new stories about Asian art amid changing definitions of Asia in the 21st century, and increase the connection between Asian art and the multi-cultural community within the Pacific Northwest.

Photography: Tim Griffith, Adam Hunter


Daylighting was introduced to the center galleries by light-boxes with tunable LED lighting in place of existing skylights, emulating natural daylight. This artificial lighting enables the museum to provide flexibility for future displays, showcase new art, and better preserve its collection.

Seattle Asian Art Museum - Interior
Seattle Asian Art Museum - Interior

The physical changes have been an opportunity for the museum to launch a new Asian Paintings Conservation Center, which will address the lack of US conservators specializing in Asian art. In consultation with colleagues from 19 museums, SAM’s chief conservator has led the creation of the new facility that will serve the region.

“We cannot imagine a more sensitive renovation that answers to the eccentricities of a historic building, public scrutiny, and the technical needs of a 21st -century museum facility.”

– Amada Cruz, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and Chief Executive Office, Seattle Art Museum

Selected Awards

2024 WAN Awards Americas, Institutions Category

2022 Chicago Athenaeum, American Architecture Award

2021 WAN Awards, Finalist

2021 Seattle Met, Best of the City, Best Museum

2021 NWCB Outstanding Project of the Year Awards, Stucco

2020 Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards, Best Design North America, Honorable Mention

2020 AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Design Awards, Merit Award

2020 AIA Washington Council Civic Design Awards, Citation Award

2020 Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards, Best Design Cities, Honorable Mention

2020 AIA Seattle Honor Awards, Honorable Mention

2020 AN Best of Design Awards, Renovation, Editors’ Picks

2020 DJC 2020 Building of the Year, Top 10