The new Sonoma County Museum expands a regional art museum’s mission and its role as a public forum for art and culture in the community and the county. The museum’s site sits at the confluence of several disparate urban typologies: to the north lies a historic residential neighborhood; to the east, the original commercial core of the city, US 101 to the west, and a large regional shopping center immediately south.
RECONNECTING THE CITY CENTER
The mall and the freeway, built in the 1970s, bifurcated central Santa Rosa into two disconnected precincts. The museum reunites these two centers for the city’s commercial and cultural life, a bridge between Old Courthouse Square to the east and Railroad Square to the west.
KNITTED INTO THE SURROUNDING CITY
At the center of the museum’s site is the Old Post Office, a two-story beaux-arts building built in 1910. The new museum stretches itself around the existing building, reaching across the entire block, offering views both east and west. This sinuous configuration organizes a series of layered public spaces across multiple scales in concert with the surrounding context. Along the building’s five-hundred-foot southern elevation, cuts, perforations, and incisions draw the public visually and physically deeper into the museum as they pass along 7th Street. Conversely, moving within the museum’s twisting galleries, views of the city are framed, structured, and exposed, creating a series of links between exhibitions and the urban fabric of the city beyond.
EXTENDING THE COMMUNITY
The museum’s lobby and its primary public component, the CenterSpace Forum, are merged into a dramatic multi-level space which takes on urban characteristics as visitors move through its multiple levels, taking in views to a central water garden and interior galleries. From this physical and symbolic core, visitors to the museum are led eastward by an elevated passageway which first rises above the CenterSpace Forum, and then continues through each of the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibition galleries as well as the museum’s screening room. At the center of the museum’s multiple linear galleries, the Old Post Office houses the museum’s educational center as well as the Project Gallery, a space for contemporary and experimental art.
LOCATION / Santa Rosa, California
TYPE / Art museum and renovation of historic Sonoma County Post Office
SIZE / 58,000sf
STATUS / Master Plan Completed 2006
ROLE / Design Architect & Architect of Record
COST / $19 million