Seattle Asian Art Museum Project News & Events

10

Reimagined, Reinstalled, Reopening February 8, 2020

We are so excited to announce that the Seattle Asian Art Museum—our historic home in Volunteer Park—will reopen on Saturday, February 8, 2020, following a 24-month-long renovation and expansion. We’ve addressed the critical needs of this 1933 Art Deco building for infrastructure, accessibility, and program space and now we are busy moving our Asian art collection back home.

The first update visitors will notice is to the park itself. Working from the original Olmsted Brothers design, the Walker Macy firm oversaw landscape renovations that created paths surrounding the museum, which were part of original plans. Other exterior updates include a more direct route between the museum and public transit on 15th Avenue, as well as improved ADA accessibility.

the fountain in the Fuller Gard Court

Visitors approaching the museum’s historic building will be welcomed with a freshly restored, iconic Art Deco sandstone façade, reglazed glass, and cleaned metalwork. Inside the building, visitors will be greeted by a light-filled lobby and renovated Garden Court with a newly revealed original historic fountain. Through the Garden Court, the lush greenery of Volunteer Park is now visible through the glass-enclosed park lobby expansion on the east side of the building.

view of the park lobby with glass walls overlooking the trees in Volunteer Park

One of the biggest changes visitors will find is in the presentation of the art. The expanded and improved space allows new stories of the collection to come to light amid changing definitions of Asian art in the 21st century. Ping Foong, Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art; Xiaojin Wu, Curator of Japanese and Korean Art; and Darielle Mason, guest curator of South Asian Art, collaborated on a dramatic and innovative reimagining of the collection in Boundless: Stories of Asian Art. The inaugural special exhibition Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art draws from SAM’s collection to focus on art being made now by Asian artists living around the world.

Asian Art Museum camel in front of the building's Art Deco doorway

A free community celebration will welcome visitors back to the museum on February 8 and 9, 2020. It will feature two 12-hour days (9 am–9 pm) of programs reflecting the 12 themes of the reimagined collection galleries. Free tickets to this weekend-long event will be available to reserve later this winter.

Photos: Adam Hunter, Tim Griffith, and Natali Wiseman.

10

Seattle Asian Art Museum Opening Early 2020

Great progress continues in preparation of the Asian Art Museum for the reinstallation of our Asian art collection. Originally slated to reopen in November 2019, significant work that was not previously identified remains to be done on the building’s vintage passenger elevator. While our Temporary Certificate of Occupancy allows work to take place in the building, we cannot receive our Permanent Certificate of Occupancy until the elevator issues are resolved. Without this certificate, the museum cannot open to the public. Additional issues include climate control stabilization and ongoing finish work requiring dust mitigation which must be resolved before art can be moved safely back into the building.

While these final parts of the project are addressed, the wonderful Art Deco architectural elements which have been immaculately restored throughout the original spaces are once again being revealed. The new galleries created through the expansion are full of exciting potential and we’re sure the beautiful views of Volunteer Park from the glass-enclosed Park Lobby will quickly become a cherished space by visitors. As these recent images show, it will be worth the wait!

Though the restored and improved museum won’t be ready as soon as originally planned, we are confident it will open in early 2020. Check back here for ongoing project updates.

Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Natali Wiseman. Photo: Adam Hunter.

7

Main Construction Phase Completed

Visitors to Volunteer Park may have noticed that the construction fencing has been taken down around the Seattle Asian Art Museum and that new grass has been planted. While the museum is not yet ready to reopen, we are pleased to note that the main construction phase of the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project has been completed.

On Friday, June 21, 2019, the City issued a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, and responsibility for the building was officially returned to the Seattle Art Museum from BNBuilders. There is still much work to do inside the building, as the project begins final preparations for the art to be returned to the building—from testing the climate control systems to finalizing lighting and interior finishes to moving in case work for the display of art.

In addition to the completed expansion to the building’s east side, visitors to the park can already see some of the final results of the Asian Art Museum project. Immediately apparent is the stunning Art Deco metalwork at the iconic building’s front entrance that has been cleaned and fully restored. And the opaque finish on the glass used for the entrance has been removed, so for the first time in decades the windows are transparent, allowing visitors to see into the museum and even into the park beyond.

Work on the project continues, but each day brings us closer to the reopening of this cultural gem.

Fuller Garden Court in progress
9

The Fuller Garden Court Gets a Facelift

The walls of the Fuller Garden Court in the Seattle Asian Art Museum may look like marble or limestone, but they are actually scagliola, a form of plaster made to look like decorative stone. Over the years, the fragile scagliola walls and panels of the historic building have become damaged and discolored. As part of the museum’s renovation, these walls are being repaired and preserved. Cracked panels are being pieced together and glued using polymer injections, while the backsides of the panels are being reinforced with plaster and burlap or fiberglass. In addition, the faces of the scagliola panels will be patched with Keenes cement and a colored cement mix, and any scratches will be filled. Lastly, the walls of the Fuller Garden Court will be cleaned and polished.

When the museum reopens to the public after the renovation project is completed, visitors to the Fuller Garden Court will enjoy a space that closely resembles the way it would have looked when the building first opened in 1933.

5

Work Begins on New Fuller Garden Court Doorways

One of the elements of the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion is the creation of new doorways in the museum’s Fuller Garden Court. These doorways—opening onto a new space with floor-to-ceiling glass windows—will allow for gorgeous views and strengthen the visual connection between the museum and Volunteer Park.

The Asian Art Museum’s historic building, and the original home of SAM, was constructed in the 1930s during the Great Depression. The walls of the Fuller Garden Court were created using scagliola (“scal-yo-lah”), a plaster technique that mimics the look and feel of natural and more costly stone.

Work is underway to carefully cut openings in the walls for these doorways. The parts of the wall being removed will be saved, should the need arise in the future to return the walls to their original form.

16

Park Lobby Glass Installation in Progress

Rain or shine, work continues on the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation and expansion project. Installation of the glass for the new park lobby addition is almost finished. Once the glass is in place and sealed, the entire space will be made weathertight.

When the museum reopens, the park lobby will offer visitors beautiful views and establish a stronger visual connection between the museum and Volunteer Park. It will also help visitor circulation in the museum.

Photo of the Olmsted Path as work progresses
8

Volunteer Park Path Upgrades Almost Complete

One component of the Seattle Asian Art Museum renovation project is upgrades to pedestrian paths in the park, including the restoration of historic Olmstedian paths and the creation of new paths in the east meadow (part of the original 1910 Olmsted plan for Volunteer Park).

Through an inclusive planning process in cooperation with the Capitol Hill community, Seattle Parks & Recreation, the National Park Service, Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks, Volunteer Park Trust, and other local and regional stakeholders, the Seattle Art Museum is in the process of constructing two historic Olmsted pathways, improving existing park pathway surfacing, strengthening the connection between 15th Avenue/public transit and the park, and improving pedestrian circulation around the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The path work will make the park more welcoming and usable.

Map of Olmstead paths

While work is in progress, visitors to the park will see protective fencing around the paths. This temporary chain-link fencing will be removed at the end of November 2018 (weather permitting).

13

Seattle Asian Art Museum Expansion “Topping Out”

The last beams are going in place for the steel framework of the Seattle Asian Art Museum’s expansion, located on the east side of the historic building in Volunteer Park.

Installation of structural steel began in June 2018. Visitors to the park can now see the outline of the new structure containing three floors, including a new gallery that will accommodate more of the museum’s collections and exhibitions. The renovation and expansion project will also add a much-needed dedicated Education space.

As the work on the expansion continues (just one part of the museum’s major renovation project), final exterior finishes including a glass curtain wall and new precast concrete will be added.

For monthly construction updates, visit the BNBuilders website.

Photo: Richard Beckerman
15

Fuller Garden Court Skylights Revealed During Building Renovation

The renovation of the Seattle Asian Art Museum is in full swing. The translucent panel ceiling of the Fuller Garden Court has been removed to access the concrete walls above that require seismic retrofitting. With the ceiling taken down, the beautiful laminated glass skylights (original to the 1930s design, but replaced in the 1990s) have been temporarily revealed.

In addition, the demolition of interior gallery walls has been completed. The hollow clay tile walls at the perimeter of the galleries will remain, but have been opened up for seismic upgrades. Structural upgrades are continuing inside the existing spaces. As is common with historic buildings, asbestos was found and safely removed.

On the exterior, the east expansion is progressing. The foundations for the east addition are almost finished.

Photo: Courtesy of BNBuilders
Groundbreaking!
22

Museum Renovation and Expansion is Underway

Seattle Art Museum executives, joined by City of Seattle leaders, project donors and supporters, and members of the community, gathered on the front terrace of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, Tuesday, March 13, for an official groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of the renovation and expansion of the museum’s landmark building.

Braving blustery winds and the threat of rain, Kimerly Rorschach, SAM’s Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO, addressed the gathered crowd—thanking the numerous individuals and organizations who helped bring the project to fruition and reiterating the need to restore the building, which houses one of the top Asian art collections in the country.

Building campaign co-chairs Mimi Gardner Gates, SAM’s Director Emerita, and Gursharan Sidhu, SAM Trustee; and Michael Shiosaki, Director of Planning and Development at Seattle Parks & Recreation, also spoke to the crowd about the museum’s importance.

Immediately following the remarks—joined by Winnie Stratton, SAM Board of Trustees President, and Stewart Landefeld, SAM Board of Trustees Chair—the group assembled with golden crowbars in hand and ceremonially lifted some stone pavers located on the front terrace of the building.  As part of the project, these pavers will need to be temporarily removed to allow for regrading necessary for ADA accessibility improvements.

 

After years of design planning and months of preparation, work on the historic building has begun, and will conclude with the anticipated reopening of the museum in fall 2019.

Photos: Natali Wiseman. Video: Brad Curran.
12