A major element of the two-year, $56-million project was the renovation of the original museum, a palatial Art Deco building designed by Bebb and Gould in 1933. The building’s ornate walls, floors, and ceiling elements were renovated to meet code requirements, and the climate control and seismic systems were also updated. Overhead lightboxes that emulate natural daylighting were embedded into the ceilings of the main gallery spaces. The museum’s central component, the Fuller Garden Court, has been renovated to its original condition to connect to a new lobby space.
The building’s program spaces have been vertically connected by a glassy new lobby that provides unobstructed views of the surrounding park. A new, 2,648-square-foot gallery has been attached to the northeast facade of the original building on the opposite side of the main visitor entrance, adding significantly more space for its permanent collection and special exhibitions. The addition contrasts the original building’s opulent aesthetic with continuous floor-to-ceiling windows for maximum daylight exposure. “To work on a historic building like this is a real privilege and honor,” said Sam Miller, partner-in-charge at LMN Architects. “Working with SAAM was a great fit, because our focus is also about creating great social experiences and 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 museum’s architectural upgrade gave rise to an opportunity for its curators to reimagine the organization of its vast collection of Asian artifacts. “The newly renovated and expanded Asian Art Museum breaks boundaries to offer a thematic, rather than geographic or chronological, exploration of art from the world’s largest continent,” the museum announced on its website. This method of curation will take place across both the original and recently-added gallery spaces.
A free weekend-long community celebration will take place on February 8 to inaugurate the reopening of the Seattle Asian Art Museum.