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 collection as well as changing exhibitions.

In order to balance the scale of the new addition with the existing structure it is comprised of a series of smaller volumes. The design’s massing and materials including cast-in-place concrete, travertine panels, and aluminum brise-soleils, create a harmonious contrast with the existing stucco building.

New galleries on two levels form a fluid sequence of spaces that are cohesive in feel with terrazzo floors, a material that establishes continuity with the existing building as well as skylights and vertical windows that bring the site’s distinct natural light and coastal views into the Museum.

New galleries have a hexagonal lattice ceiling structure that incorporates skylights while a former auditorium space which was repurposed as a gallery with 20’ ceilings, has a system of modulated skylight bays. This new flexible multipurpose gallery on the lower level will also provide capacity for public programs, artist talks, performance art, music, and other immersive educational activities.

An existing parking lot on the north end of campus will be transformed into a public park and new seaside terraces will offer dramatic views of the Pacific Coast from two levels. MCASD’s operations are further enhanced by 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.