SFMOMA Rooftop Garden

San Francisco, CA

Back to
SFMOMA 6_CMG_Thumbnail_1920x1080
SFMOMA 7_CMG_Thumbnail_1920x1080
Image Credit: Jensen Architects

An Artful Oasis in Downtown San Francisco

The design set forth two primary objectives for the experience of the expanded museum. First, the experience of the new sculpture garden must be continuous with the main museum, a particular challenge since the rooftop garden location is on an adjacent building that is offset both vertically and horizontally from the museum. Second, the museum experience should embrace the urban context of the City rather than continue as a hermetically sealed interior environment. The 16,000 square foot sculpture garden is designed as an integral part of the sequence of the museum galleries. The project is conceived as an outdoor gallery and a space to experience nature’s beauty. The design is simple and sophisticated with highly crafted, minimalist elements. The garden composition is a response to the sculpture: each piece is provided a backdrop or tethered to the space. Without limiting flexibility or perception of space the design provides a unique setting for each individual work. The rooftop sculpture garden has been preserved and integrated into the SFMOMA expansion.

SFMOMA 8_CMG_Wide_3940x2160
SFMOMA 9_CMG_Wide_3940x2160
SFMOMA 10_CMG_Wide_3940x2160
SFMOMA 11_CMG_Wide_3940x2160
Three elegant tree-wall-bench ensembles create anchor points in the space and attract people to gather, socialize, and contemplate the art. As a simple container, the garden walls hold the art and frame the San Francisco skyline. Nature enters this garden in a subtle and fragile form as lichen, pioneering the cracks and craters of the lava stone walls. Lichen is both slow and resilient – a thin layer that paints the natural world with amazing colors, patterns, and textures, yet it’s slow and fragile growth makes it void in most urban spaces. There are over 1200 species of lichen in California, but they are conspicuously absent from downtown San Francisco. Working with a lichenologist, CMG developed a methodology for creating what we believe is the world’s first lichen garden. Image Credit: Bernard Andre
SFMOMA 12_CMG_Full Screen_4480x2520

Image Credit: Bernard Andre

The garden has become a public space oasis within downtown – continuing to pose the question: what might live in this city here after us? The juxtaposition of two unpredictable forces, art and primal nature, make the project’s ultimate form and expression undetermined on opening day; leaving us as a city of witnesses to its evolution and continued impact.