The Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in Newport Beach will be packing its bags and moving about eight miles north. The museum announced in early June its plans to build a brand new building in Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts. The project will be designed by Morphosis, and it will be that firm’s first-ever art museum.
The 12-acre Segerstrom Center, which was launched in 1976 with a donation of land to the South Coast Repertory Theater by giant Costa Mesa retail center South Coast Plaza, is now home to an expanded South Coast Repertory Theater, to the 2,000 seat Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, and to a 46,000 square foot community arts plaza. OCMA’s move will finally give the center a visual arts presence, while giving the museum itself a much higher profile.
“Culture in Orange County is really centered on that site. If the museum wasn’t there it would be on the periphery of culture in Orange County,” explained OCMA director Dennis Szakacs, who joined the museum in 2003. The Segerstrom Center is adjacent to the Orange County Performing Arts Center, which contains several other cultural institutions, including Segerstrom Hall, the Samueli Theater, and Founders Hall.
OCMA has been in its current building since 1974, and underwent an expansion in 1996. Its move to Segerstrom was planned in 1998, when South Coast Plaza, directed by Segerstrom lead benefactor Henry Segerstrom, donated 6 acres to the Orange County Performing Arts Center for the Segerstrom Center’s expansion, including space for OCMA. After greatly growing its collection, its budget and its endowment and creating a master plan for its new facility, the well-respected OCMA was finally ready for the move. So the Performing Arts Center transferred 1.64 acres next to the Henry and Renée Segerstrom Concert Hall to the museum on June 6.
The new site will allow OCMA to grow from 38,000 square feet to a possible 72,000 square feet, though the final size of the new museum has not been determined. The land transfer agreement requires the museum to break ground on the new building no later than 2013 and to open the museum by 2016. OCMA’s Szakacs says he hopes the new museum will be finished before that time.
His museum’s selection of Morphosis came from an initial list of 15 firms that was then cut to 4 firms, including Tokyo-based Shigeru Ban, Madrid-based Abalos & Herreros, and Zurich-based Gigon Guyer. In the end, said Szakacs, the museum was most impressed by Morphosis’s enthusiasm about the project and its willingness “to rethink what a museum is, both spatially, conceptually, and programmatically.” Szakacs said the design for the new museum should be unveiled at the end of the summer, adding that there would be a focus on sustainability and on how people move through the museum both inside and outside.
Morphosis has been short-listed for a number of art museums, including LACMA’s recent expansion, the Denver Museum of Art, but never before gained the chance to design one.
Henry Segestrom said he was “delighted” about the addition of OCMA, which he called a “phenomenal institution” He added that the Segerstrom Center will stop expanding for a while after the new museum is built. There is an entitlement for another 1,000 seat theater on the land, but “it wouldn’t happen for another ten years,” he said.