Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

La Jolla, California

A thoughtful renovation and expansion preserves historic elements, expands the museum’s capabilities and engages the community in new ways.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s expansion and renovation tripled the amount of gallery space and provided new opportunities for public programs and community engagement, while paying tribute to the rich architectural history of the building.

LPA served as the architect of record on the renovation, working with the design architect Selldorf Architects of New York City, an internationally recognized expert in museums and art spaces. MCASD is a treasured institution with deep ties to the community. The museum’s original building was the last home of philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, designed in 1916 by Irving Gill. Since opening in 1941, the structure has undergone expansions by Mosher & Drew in 1950, 1960, and again in the late 1970s, and a renovation by Venturi Scott Brown & Associates in 1996. However, as the museum’s art collection continued to expand, the building’s galleries became inadequate to display its holdings.

Selldorf Architects was tasked with creating new architecture that would provide significantly more gallery space, create a more welcoming and clear entry, and enhance the museum’s connection to its spectacular coastal setting. The new design includes the renovation of 34,500 square feet of existing spaces as well as the addition of 40,200 square feet of new spaces, effectively doubling the museum’s existing square footage.

The design creates a more coherent flow for the museum, in addition to increasing public areas, taking full advantage of the site. The design relocates the museum’s entry, bringing balance to the overall building and orienting the complex toward the village street. New construction on the southern end of the site allows for two levels of light-filled galleries of varying volume and character, from soaring ceiling heights to intimate niches. Vertical windows will bring in natural light and offer views of the La Jolla coastline. A large multipurpose gallery on the lower level will provide capacity for public programs, artist talks, performance art, music, and other immersive educational activities.

The existing parking lot on the north end of campus will be transformed into a public park and new terraces will offer dramatic views of the Pacific Coast from two levels, helping to ensure the museum’s community legacy for the next generation.

© Images by Selldorf Architects

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