Since opening in 1995 Site Santa Fe has become a renowned laboratory not just for contemporary art, but also architecture. Its building, a former beer warehouse located in the heart of the bustling Santa Fe Railyard, was initially renovated by Richard Gluckman, and in subsequent years Todd Williams and Billie Tsien and David Adjaye have helped design exhibitions, while Greg Lynn has carried out a facade intervention. 

The latest experiment: SHoP Architects' just-unveiled building expansion. The New York firm's work will enlarge the facility, update its technical systems, and, perhaps most important, said SHoP principal Chris Sharples, 'get away from this introverted closed box to something cracking itself open to the district.' 

The endeavor, which will increase Site Santa Fe's size by almost 15,000 sq ft, will announce itself with an intricately layered, water-jet-cut aluminum façade inspired by Navajo patternmaking and rooted in the material palette of its industrial site. 

The new main entrance will literally reach out to the community, jutting forward like the prow of a ship, and framing a small patio. A new gravel-floored public plaza on the building's flank, just next to the popular Railyard Park, will contain public art, tables, and other elements encouraging activity. 

Inside the building, whose quirky galleries will remain mostly as-is (that's a good thing), will be re-oriented for transparency, including a glass wall fronting the entry, triangular cuts in the façade, and a new internal courtyard linking rooms. New facilities will be focused on community-related activities. They include the SITElab Exhibition gallery; a lecture and event space; an Education Lab and classroom; and a 'Sky Mezzanine,' an upper level area providing both views and outdoor exhibition space. 

'We're literally changing the face of the institution and addressing the audience in a much more open and welcoming way,' noted Site Santa Fe Director Irene Hofmann. 'It was challenging to do that with a stealthy looking building.'

Completion is scheduled for summer 2017.