Asian art revitalizes old library

August 11, 2010

Shuttered after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, San Francisco's Main Library was reincarnated March 20 as the new home of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. The $160.5 million renovation of the 1917 Beaux Arts structure is part of a decade-long effort to revitalize the city's Civic Center complex.

"It was a case of an important building needing to be brought back to life," says Gae Aulenti, the Italian architect. She oversaw the conceptual design in association with a joint-venture of the San Francisco offices of HOK, LDA Architects, and Robert Wong Architect.

LEM/DPR, a joint venture of Oakland -based LEM Construction Inc. and the San Francisco office of DPR Construction, provided construction management.

While the building's exterior remains unchanged, and much of its interior has been restored, a seismic upgrade, including new foundations, concrete shear walls, and 196 base isolators, will enable it to withstand an 8.3 earthquake.

Dramatic changes appear just off the building's main entrance, where a newly created interior court is brightened by natural light provided from inverted, V-shaped skylights.

At the rear of the court, a two-story escalator extends 115 ft. through a glass-enclosed curtain along the outside of the building, taking patrons to the second and third floors of the museum.

To add space, crews constructed a new second floor by lifting steel beams into position with chain hoists.


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