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Raising the Roof

THE SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (SFMoMA) HAD A PROBLEM: A glut of art and a lack of space led to scores of stunning sculptures wasting away in storage. Enter Jensen Architects, a San Francisco-based firm that beat out six other hopefuls in an two-year competition to design a sculpture garden on top of the museum’s parking garage. With the garden’s opening on May 10, works by renowned artists like Alexander Calder, Ellsworth Kelly, Kiki Smith and Barnett Newman will finally see the light of day, literally.

Jensen began the 14,400-square-foot addition by knocking out the back wall of the museum’s fifth floor and replacing it with a floor-to-ceiling window, flooding the gallery with natural light and providing a striking view of the garden. Then came a steel-and-glass bridge, connecting the building to the roof garden. As visitors cross the bridge, says architect Mark Jensen, they reenter the city. “You can see the streets below and the surrounding skyscrapers.”

Upon entering the garden, with its gingko trees, sleek benches and, of course, sculptures, the mood changes yet again. “The garden is more of a contemplative space that frames the sky,” says Jensen.

That effect was accomplished by erecting a 13-foot lava-stone wall around the rooftop, offering protection from wind and noise while allowing gallerygoers to contemplate the works under natural—and ever-changing—lighting conditions. It also lets them get some sun. And a little vitamin D never hurt anyone. —Karen Leland


Some might question the practicality of an outdoor roof garden in a city famous for its fog. No need to worry. Architect Mark Jensen says the new SFMOMA rooftop garden was purposefully designed so that art enthusiasts could enjoy the space in all kinds of weather.

To achieve this, Jensen and his team created a pavilion, complete with café and indoor seating, that bisects the garden and features full-height glass doors that slide open on both sides. When it rains, the doors slide shut, and the weather stays out.

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