Seattle Art Museum

In 2007, Allied Works completed a 300,000sf expansion at the Seattle Art Museums main location in downtown Seattle. Seamlessly connecting to SAMs existing facility by Venturi, Scott Brown Associates in 1991, the new expansion was designed to highlight art within and create a civic center of creative expression and energy in the city. SAMs global collection represents work from culture around the world including African, Australian Aboriginal, 18th and 19th century American, South East Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Northwest Coast Native American, Meso-American, Modern and Contemporary, European, Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic, and Decorative Arts.

A significant increase in these holdings and a visionary public-private partnership were the catalysts for the construction of a dramatic 16-story building that establishes a new presence in the physical and cultural heart of the city. The objective was to create an open and flexible building that would allow SAM to exhibit its remarkable collection in innovative ways and serve its broader public mission- while also allowing SAM to grow upward in phases to support the museums fast-growing collections, exhibitions and programs. Additionally, the Museum sought to create an airy, light-filled public lobby, spacious new museum shop, street front restaurant, and education space where visitors could participate in artist-created experiences, hands-on arts activities and public programming for all ages.

Allied Works was responsible for developing the museums master plan and architectural design to facilitate their growth ambitions over a 20-year period. Planning for the expansion of the institution and the collection required an innovative design approach with differing use and character while maintaining the unity of the architectural expression. The end result was a new model for museum design that incorporates a timeless, welcoming environment with various galleries and public spaces of diverse scale, proportion and lighting to bring vibrancy and long-term success to the public institution.

The design of the museum unfolds like a continuous ribbon of space. Overlooks offer views of art-filled galleries above and below, orienting visitors within the museum and to the city beyond. A soaring double-height gallery is proportioned to complement larger-scale works, enabling the art to breathe, while vistas out to the Olympic
Mountains and Elliott Bay connect visitor, art and landscape.

The exterior is composed of ribbed panels of stainless steel and glass, designed to capture Seattles ever-changing weather and daylight through an operable brise-soleil, or sun break, system. These sliding stainless steel shutters can moderate the amount of light admitted into the galleries, so curators can choose to bathe the space in natural light or block it out to protect light-sensitive works of art.

As a result of the design SAM was able to feature approximately 2,400 objects in its inaugural installation, nearly triple the number of works previously on display. Allied Works was able to preserve SAMs desire to tie holdings together through the presentation of art in large cultural groupings that stress the works original function
and the artists intent while bridging between cultures and eras where possible through strategic adjacencies that highlight points of commonality or counterpoints.


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