A SITE for sore eyes
SITE Santa Fe has already raised $6.2 million of the $8.5 million sought from its SITE Tomorrow Campaign, a fund drive for an anticipated museum expansion. “That’s pretty good,” SITE’s Phillips Director and chief curator Irene Hofmann told Pasatiempo. “The building will cost $6 million, but we also raise the money we need to run it.” SITE’s endowment is close to $7 million, but the institution wants to increase the endowment to $10 million over the next three years. The remaining balance from the campaign, minus a $500,000 operating reserve, will go toward increasing the endowment. “An operating reserve for a small nonprofit means we have cash on hand when we need it. You may remember the time part of the roof caved in here. Things happen.”
SITE’s expansion plans call for a new, dedicated space for SITElab, its ongoing exhibition series; a lecture and event space; educational facilities; a courtyard and sky mezzanine; an expanded lobby; an outdoor sculpture space; and a dynamic new front entryway. The expansion and renovation design is the work of New York-based SHoP Architects, the firm behind the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn and Google Inc. offices in Mountain View, California. “They’ve never done a museum building before, and that’s pretty special for us in Santa Fe,” Hofmann said. “They understand function, how people move through buildings, and how offices work. We were looking for a firm that had a lot of the same qualities as the artists that we show: innovative, experimental.” SITE plans a SHoP show next spring that looks at the architecture firm’s projects and includes renderings of the SITE expansion plans.
SITE runs several educational programs, the Young Curators and SITE Scholar Program among them, but the existing building has no adequate space for classes to meet. “We’re just creating the space that they need,” Hofmann said. The campaign funding would also pay for an upgrade to a more efficient climatecontrol system. SITE sponsors its own contemporary art exhibits and hosts traveling shows, but inadequate humidity and temperature controls limit its ability to bring in shows from other institutions. “There’s a lot of art we haven’t been able to bring,” said Hofmann. “Even borrowing from an artist’s studio — there’s work we know we just can’t bring here.”
SITElab, which exists now as a small alcove space at the far end of the lobby, would have 1,800 square feet of exhibit space in the renovated building. SITElab stays open year-round to offer visitors something to see when the main exhibitions are being changed out, but the new space permits fuller-scale exhibitions or more than one exhibition thanks to the addition of a movable wall. “With just a few changes to the wall, you can walk in and every show looks different.”
The lecture and event space planned for the back end of the building can seat about 250 people or accommodate 400 people who are standing. The space is multipurpose and brings another 3,000 square feet to SITE. The sky mezzanine adds exhibit space for works that can be displayed outside, such as outdoor sculpture and sound installations.
Plans for the building’s exterior include construction of a prow-shaped, perforated, anodized aluminum structure under which visitors pass to get to the main entrance. “What we asked SHoP to do was help us make the building more welcoming,” Hofmann said. “We wanted what SITE is to be revealed. We wanted to really rip the front off the building and let people look in.” The front wall of the building will be moved closer to the street and be replaced with glass so people can see inside. Aluminum cladding, matching the prow, covers the rest of the building. “What’s really nice about the cladding is that the old building stays here,” she said. “We’re upgrading the electrical and all the mechanicals we need for this building to last and adding onto the front and back, but the cladding is what’s unifying it.” SHoP’s design for SITE is sustainable and green, incorporating recycled materials, reduced-water-use fixtures, and a stormwater design for the exterior courtyard.
The second iteration of SITElines, the biennial exhibition series, opens in July, and SITE breaks ground at the back of the building in August. When SITElines closes in January 2017, work begins at the front of the building. “We hope to reopen by end of summer, early fall of 2017,” Hofmann said. — M.A.