SFMOMA Atrium Redesign for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Rethinking a modern art musem lobby

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art approached IDEO to reconceptualize the entry experience and the functioning of the atrium from the visitor and member perspective. The intent is to improve and restore Mario Botta’s vision of a balance of architecture and art, each enriching the other.

Opportunities Research and observations were at the core of IDEO’s efforts. The research component employed three reliable techniques: visitor reviews, observations by experts, and stakeholder interviews. The key points obtained from this extensive research were:

-Visitors are not clear that the museum is open

-Once inside, visitors become disoriented and confused

-The transition from the outside world to the art experience lacks grace

The concept of an exterior ticket booth grew out of the identification of the key points listed above and an analysis of traffic and flow alternatives within the atrium. By relocating ticketing and increasing the transparency of the existing doors, visitors and passers-by have a view into the atrium and a glimpse of the experience before them.

Results: The relocation of ticketing to the exterior allows for clear, identifiable destinations—membership, general information, visitor services, etc.—within the atrium, creating an even flow of traffic and providing areas for refuge and contemplation. This solution offers visitors and members alike the space and time to enjoy the atrium, and restores Botta’s notion of the atrium as a piazza, or town square, with the expanded museum store, cafe, auditorium, and services framing the experience.

Project date: 2004