The Asian Art Museum family is saddened by the news of the passing of Gae Aulenti, the visionary Italian architect who in 2003 was responsible for transforming San Francisco’s former Main Library into the museum’s expanded home. Ms. Aulenti was 84.
“The world has lost an immensely talented creative spirit,” said Jay Xu, director of the Asian Art Museum. “Gae Aulenti was in a class of her own, an artist able to transform historic structures into dynamic public spaces that reflect a balance of traditional and modern sensibilities. Her work creating the museum’s home has brought new life to a time-honored building, bringing joy to those who visit. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends and colleagues.”
In 1996, the Asian Art Museum chose Ms. Aulenti—a highly regarded designer specializing in the conversion of historic structures into museum spaces—as the design architect of its new facility at San Francisco’s Civic Center. Her award-winning projects include the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, which was created from an enormous turn-of-the-century railway station; the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, a refurbishment of an eighteenth-century Venetian palace; and the National Museum of Catalan Art in Barcelona, a renovation of the National Palace, the building created for the World Exhibition of 1929.
Former Asian Art Museum director Emily Sano writes:
“Gae Aulenti’s deep understanding of classical architecture as well as the requirements of a modern museum were key to her work at the Asian Art Museum. The imposing facade of the former Main Library building led her to envision a light-filled interior that refreshed the sipirt of visitors as they entered, and the circulation pattern she devised through three floors of galleries, led visitors to comfortably encounter art as they moved through space. I am proud the Asian Art Museum will stand as testament to Aulenti’s enormous talents.”
On March 20, 2013, the Asian Art Museum will celebrate its 10th anniversary in the space Aulenti transformed, an ideal home for the interaction of traditional and contemporary art.