Seattle’s art deco Asian Art Museum gains a modern extension

Seattle’s art deco Asian Art Museum gains a modern extension

LMN Architects brings the Seattle Asian Art Museum into the 21st century with a modern glass and sandstone extension that makes a surprisingly seamless addition to an iconic art deco institution at the heart of public culture in the Pacific North West region

The 1930s art deco Seattle Asian Art Museum has gained an uplifting modern extension that reconnects the building to its surrounding park – and the museum’s 21st century future. Seattle-based LMN Architects is behind the transformation that seamlessly merges old with new.

Before thinking about the future, however, the first priority for LMN was the restoration of this iconic ‘local treasure’. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum was designed by Bebb and Gould in 1933 as the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). When SAM moved to a new Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates-designed building, the Asian Art Museum, dedicated to collections of Japanese, Chinese, Korean and South Asian art, split off and opened up at the original art deco digs in 1994.

Modern extension
Aerial view of museum

The addition of new functions to the museum – such as spaces for education and art conservation – was integral. The answer comes in the form of a minimal glass and sandstone extension, in which visitors will find added exhibition space, a conservation studio, auditorium and community education space.

While distinct in material and design, the modern extension also assimilates with the circulation of the original museum, and its location in the heart of Volunteer Park. A new lobby echoes the existing two art deco lobbies that draw visitors through from the front steps to the exhibitions. Materiality and texture of the interiors create a seamless flow.

The glazed exterior was a way to connect people in the park to the museum, allowing it to become more ‘open and expressive’. ‘Now, everyone in the park can get a sense of what is happening within and the contemporary addition creates new opportunities for serendipitous social interactions inside the museum,’ says LMN’s design partner Wendy Pautz. §

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