San Francisco Asian Art Museum

San Francisco Asian Art Museum | San Francisco, California

Converting the magnificent San Francisco Main Library in the heart of San Francisco’s Civic Center into the San Francisco Asian Art Museum proved to be an amazing historic renovation feat. The three-story downtown building, built in 1917, was condemned in 1989 after suffering damage in the Loma Prieta Earthquake. In a joint venture with LEM Construction Inc., DPR served as the general contractor for the restoration of the exterior granite skin façade and interior renovation of the great hall, grand staircase, and loggia, as well as the addition of a new floor and a 50-ft. tall skylight—a signature of designer Gae Aulenti that provides natural daylight.

Up to The


The amount of structural renovation required to stabilize and seismically strengthen the building was challenging. The structural work alone took two-and-a-half years to complete and involved the installation of 14 shear walls up to three ft. thick that ran from the ceiling to the basement. Due to limited site access in the highly dense Civic Center area, most of the steel had to be hand-rigged (rather than using a crane). Approximately 1,300 laborers, carpenters, ironworkers, glaziers, plasterers, masons, plumbers, fitters, electricians, and other professionals worked together to safely complete more than a million hours of construction over nearly four years.

Getting Into

The Numbers

The renovated building is composed of a concrete frame on 210 base isolators designed to allow the new landmark to withstand an 8.3 magnitude earthquake. A moat around the perimeter accommodates sway during a seismic event. Additionally, the project used 26,000 cubic yards of concrete, 6,000 tons of steel, 30,000 sq. ft. of glass, 50 miles of electrical wiring, and 11,000 sq. ft. of Italian Basaltina stone flooring. The completed space gave the museum a 30% increase in space compared to its previous location.