Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego was Closed for Remodeling and Now It’s Reopened
Our tour La Jolla: The Riviera of California was first published two years ago in August of 2020. Important changes have happened since that launch so we wanted to update the tour to reflect those changes. Probably the most important change was that the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) has since reopened as of Summer of 2022. In Summer of 2020, the museum was closed for extensive remodeling.
The La Jolla Museum has undergone a number of aesthetically distinctive additions since it first opened in 1941. The architectural firm, Mosher & Drew undertook a sequence of additions in 1950, 1960, and once more in the late 1970s, and another firm, Venturi Scott Brown & Associates, renovated the MCASD building in 1996. But as the Museum’s art collection grew, its contents could no longer be shown in the building’s galleries. The duty of creating a new design in 2014 for public and artistic areas was given to Selldorf Architects. The new design virtually doubles the size of the Museum by renovating 28,000 square feet of its current space and adding 46,400 square feet of new space. The new design gives the collection a lot more exhibition space, creates a more welcome and clear entrance, and gives the site more coherence which strengthens the relationship between the Museum and its breathtaking seaside environment.
The layout of the gallery circulation has been changed to improve the campus-wide visitor experience also. When visitors arrive, they can choose between the new and old permanent collection galleries or the Special Exhibitions galleries. By quadrupling the size of the existing gallery space from almost 10,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet, the design provides space to simultaneously exhibit MCASD’s permanent collection as well as changing exhibitions.
The new extension along the southern edge of the campus, which is made up of several smaller structures on three levels, balances the scale of the original building. The construction materials used in the design, such as cast-in-place concrete, travertine panels, and aluminum brise-soleils, harmoniously contrast with the nearby stucco structure. Centrally located and now clearly visible from Prospect Street and Silverado Street, a new distinctive entry to the Museum has been created. In an open, translucent lobby area that also houses the Museum bookstore, visitors are welcomed. Axline Court, designed by Venturi Scott Brown, will play a crucial role in the Museum’s educational program.
Ellen Browning Scripps, the renowned local philanthropist, is credited with founding the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) in La Jolla as it was her final residence, a contemporary seaside home built by Irving Gill in 1916.
The former Sherwood Auditorium at the Museum has been converted into a 7,000 square foot gallery with 20′ ceilings. Many of the new galleries also feature high ceilings. Additionally, a portion of the auditorium has been transformed into an adaptable event area with its own entrance accessible from Coast Boulevard South. The site’s distinctive natural light and coastline views are brought into the new areas by skylights and vertical windows.
On the north end of the property, an existing parking lot and loading dock are changed into a brand-new, open-to-the-public art park. The property as a whole, is better connected to its surroundings thanks to new terraces that provide magnificent views of the Pacific Coast from two levels. Modern spaces, such as a new loading dock, art preparator’s room, freight elevator, art storage, and two levels of below-grade parking, further improve MCASD’s operations.
The tour stop for MCASD was not the only update to our tour, we also updated St James by the Sea Episcopal Church, La Jolla Woman’s Club, the Wedding Bowl at Cuvier Park, Ellen Browning Scripps Park and we added some sound effects to make the tour more engaging.