Asian art revitalizes old library

April 01, 2003 |

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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