seattle's asian art museum readies for reopening after renovation and expansion

seattle's asian art museum readies for reopening after renovation and expansion

following a 24-month-long renovation and expansion, seattle’s asian art museum will reopen to the public on february 8, 2020. the museum’s historic 1933 building closed in early 2017 to address critical needs of infrastructure, accessibility, and program space. now enhanced with a design by LMN architects, working alongside landscape architect walker macy, the building reopens as ‘a modern museum within an historic icon’.

aerial view of the asian art museum in volunteer park
image © tim griffith (also main image)



the asian art museum’s historic art deco building was the original home of the seattle art museum (SAM) and has not been substantially restored or renovated since its construction in 1933. the expansion project, led by LMN architects, has modernized and preserved the historic building, increased exhibition and education space, and established a better connection to the surrounding park.


highlights of the project include: a new glass-enclosed park lobby on the east side of the building; two new portals in the fuller garden court opening onto the park lobby; a new gallery, education studio, conservation center, and community meeting room; the restoration of olmstedian pathways in the park near the museum; restoration of three fountains (two exterior, one interior); cleaning and preservation of the original sandstone façade; cleaning of the façade’s art deco metalwork and reglazing of the glass.

the renovated fuller garden court in the asian art museum
image © tim griffith



‘a set of steps lead to the art deco lobby entrance on the west side of the building,’ says LMN architects, explaining the project’s layout and configuration. ‘once inside, the entry lobby connects to the fuller garden court and unfolds into the new park lobby. all three spaces create a new circulation spine joining the building with the park, and the park with the building. the renovation and addition reaffirms the original character of the fuller garden court as the central hub of the museum which not only provides access to the gallery spaces, but also establishes a sense of expectation that is reinforced by the two new portals that open to the park lobby. the new lobby is the vertical connector to the program spaces and is composed mostly of glass, giving the impression that the space is floating in the landscape.’

the preserved façade of the asian art museum
image © tim griffith



‘this is a pivotal moment for SAM and for the city of seattle,’ says amada cruz, the newly appointed illsley ball nordstrom director and CEO of SAM. ‘with the completion of this project, we unveil new spaces to connect the museum’s extraordinary collection of asian art to our lives and experiences. I’m grateful to the city of seattle, the staff and supporters of SAM, and especially to my predecessor, kimerly rorschach, for seeing this monumental project through.’ the museum will reopen to the public on february 8, 2020.



project info:


name: seattle asian art museum
location: 1400 e. prospect street, seattle, washington 98112
museum leadership: amada cruz, illsley ball nordstrom director and CEO
project architect: LMN architects
project cost: $56 million USD
size: 64,250 sqf


project team —
LMN architects: yomi adeyemi, associate AIA; robert ames; aaron argyle, associate AIA; henry butitta; michael day; melissa eby; tiffani erdmanczyk; anya fiechtl, AIA; mette greenshields, AIA; joanne koola; mark lo; samuel miller, FAIA; lori naig; lauren patnoe; wendy pautz, FAIA; christopher patterson, AIA; francene ray; ayako sakurai; jeremy schoenfeld, AIA; kathy stallings, AIA; jennifer tamblin; megan taylor; pamela trevithick, AIA; paulina wilkowska; john woloszyn, AIA
civil engineer: coughlin porter lundeen
general contractor: BNBuilders
landscape architect: walker macy
lighting design: fisher marantz stone
mechanical engineer: rushing company
electrical engineer: stantec
envelope consultant: RDH building science, inc.
historic preservation consultant: BOLA architecture and planning
owner’s representative: OAC services, inc.
structural engineer: magnusson klemencic associates

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