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MCASD Expansion

Rendering of the MCASD renovation, from the street.

Since its founding in 1941 as The Art Center in La Jolla, MCASD has evolved into a leading visual arts organization of national and international renown. With artworks dating from 1950, the permanent collection includes more than 4,700 objects in all media. International in character, the holdings boast strengths in abstraction and minimalism, California art since 1960, Latin American art, and installation art.

As the collection has grown, the building has remained constrained, with inadequate galleries to display its holdings. Prudent real estate acquisitions and strong donor engagement have provided the opportunity for MCASD to expand its La Jolla campus at last, allowing for the dedicated display of the celebrated permanent collection alongside the presentation of temporary exhibitions.

“Selldorf’s expansion brings cohesion to the campus and clarity to the visitor experience. The design, which doubles the building’s overall size, sensitively responds to its site between the village and shore. It respects and celebrates its place in the coastal landscape as it integrates the needs of the Museum into the aesthetics and culture of the community.
--Kathryn Kanjo, The David C. Copley Director and CEO

MCASD has a long and rich trajectory of development and many decades of commissioning buildings by distinguished architects. Since opening in 1941, the Museum has undergone several architecturally distinct expansions: the architecture firm of Mosher & Drew completed a series of expansions in 1950, 1960, and again in the late 1970s; and Venturi Scott Brown & Associates completed a renovation of MCASD’s La Jolla location in 1996.

In 2014, following an extensive architectural selection process, MCASD publicly announced the decision to engage Selldorf Architects to develop a far-reaching expansion that would maximize gallery space for the collection and increase meeting spaces for the public, all while taking full advantage of the geography and climate of the La Jolla site.

Established in 1988, Selldorf Architects has achieved an international reputation for work that is sensitive to context and program and thoughtful in execution. Clients include cultural institutions and universities such as the Clark Art Institute, Neue Galerie New York, New York University, Pratt Institute and Brown University. In addition, the firm has created numerous galleries for David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, and Gladstone Gallery among others, and designed exhibitions for the Whitney Museum, Gagosian Gallery, Frieze Masters, and the Venice Biennale.

The firm’s reputation for creating remarkable art spaces and their thoughtful approach to dealing with complex renovations appealed to MCASD’s selection committee. Specific mandates for the firm include clarifying the entry sequence to the building, and expanding gallery space while integrating the complex existing conditions into a harmonious whole.

Selldorf’s design calls for new construction to the south that will allow for two levels of light-filled galleries, offering a wide range of volume and character, from soaring ceiling heights to intimate niches. Vertical windows will welcome the site’s distinct natural light and coastal views into the Museum. A large, flexible multipurpose gallery on the lower level will provide capacity for public programs, artist talks, performance art, music, and other immersive educational activities.

Rendering of the MCASD renovationsRendering of the MCASD renovations interior.Rendering of the MCASD renovations, from the ocean

In order to balance the scale of the new addition with the existing structure, it is comprised of a series of smaller volumes. With the growth of the campus shifting substantially to the south, Selldorf’s design relocates the Museum’s entry, bringing balance to the building overall and orienting the entrance toward the grid of the village streets. 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. The 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 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.  
MCASD’s expansion plan was approved by the La Jolla Community Planning Association in August of 2015. Two years later, in March 2017, the project received unanimous approval from the San Diego City Planning Commission. City officials praised the transformative project for its design and vision. In April 2017, MCASD received its Coastal Development Permit. With permitting complete and the project fully entitled and endorsed by the city of San Diego and the community of La Jolla, the Museum is poised to double its size and quadruple its galleries.
MCASD’s approach to the current expansion echoes the Museum’s core values of preserving and interpreting the past while actively engaging with issues of the present. Just as this renovation respects the institution’s preceding generations of architects, the spaces it creates will house the artworks that helped shape recent art history and anticipate the future.

While the La Jolla facility is closed, MCASD will continue to deliver high-quality exhibitions and programming at its Jacobs and Copley Buildings at MCASD Downtown, located at 1100 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101.  

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