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Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

La Jolla, CA

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) in La Jolla traces its origins to philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. Her last home, a modern oceanfront dwelling completed in 1916 by Irving Gill served as the Museum’s first location. Since opening in 1941, the Museum has undergone three architecturally distinct expansions.

Selldorf Architects was tasked with creating new architecture on the southern part of the site that would provide significantly more gallery space, create a more welcoming and clear entry, and give greater coherence to the site enhancing the Museum’s connection to its spectacular coastal setting. By quadrupling current gallery space from 10,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet, the design provides space to simultaneously exhibit MCASD’s permanent collection as well as changing exhibitions.

Comprised of a series of smaller volumes on three levels, the new addition sits in balance to the scale of the existing structure. The design’s massing and materials, including cast-in-place concrete, travertine panels, and brise-soleils, create a harmonious contrast with the existing stucco building.

All of the new galleries have high ceilings, many are double height, and a former auditorium has also been repurposed as galley with 20’ ceilings. Skylights and vertical windows bring the site’s distinct natural light and coastal views into the new spaces.

An existing parking lot on the north end of campus will be transformed into an art park and new seaside terraces will offer dramatic views of the Pacific Coast from two levels. MCASD’s operations are further enhanced with up-to-date back of house spaces including a new loading dock, art preparator’s room, freight elevator, art storage, and two levels of below grade parking.