After a lengthy wait, San Francisco’s Mexican Museum—designed by Mexico City-based TEN Arquitectos—is finally expected to break ground this summer.
Funds have mostly been secured to build the 54,000-square-foot, $43 million facility, which will occupy the first four floors of a Handel Architects-designed 47-story condo tower at 706 Mission Street and parts of the restored 1903 Aronson Building. The complex sits next to Daniel Libeskind’s Contemporary Jewish Museum and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
The facility will house more than 14,000 objects related to Mexican and Mexican-American art and culture. Its main galleries are housed in a floating box recalling traditional Mexican silver, cantilevered and hung from the legs of the tower above. The lacy white facade is composed of a reflective metallic skin, designed with artist Jan Hendrix, which wraps around a glass curtain wall. Exposed structural concrete and steel characterize the interior of the museum, which also features cantilevered concrete walkways, creating what TEN Arquitectos principal Enrique Norten called “different scales and different opportunities.” Galleries range from glassy, double-height spaces to more intimate ones, allowing light to filter through the semi-permeable facade.
The project also includes an amphitheater, café, administrative spaces, and classrooms. The scheme was scaled down from an original design that included a Jenga-like grid of interlaced cubes sandwiched between metallic screens.
Millennium Partners is developing the condo towers, Page & Turnbull is overseeing renovation of the Aronson Building, and the museum’s executive architect is a consortium between A+D, Architecture and Design, and Pfau Long Architecture.
The museum has struggled to move to its new location since it acquired the plot of land more than 20 years ago. Fundraising issues and internal struggles held up the project recently, which at one time featured a design by the late Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta. Mexican Museum board chairman Andrew Kluger has been widely credited for reviving the long-dormant project. The Handel condo building also faced a lawsuit filed by neighbors over the tower’s height.