NorCal CanCon

The opening of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) earlier this year drew a lot of attention, and rightly so. Norwegian firm Snøhetta’s massive 235,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the original Mario Botta–designed 1995 building is impressive, and makes it the largest modern and contemporary art museum in the United States.

But what may be news to some is the Canadian content: Vancouver-based Studio Brovhn is responsible for the museum’s benches, both inside and out. Working closely with the architects responsible for the furniture selection and design, Studio Brovhn tailored their wooden Planar benches to the Museum’s needs. Made out of maple wood, similar to the wood in the gallery flooring, the bench height was raised to meet the needs of an elderly demographic. The length of the interior benches was stretched to eight feet, and topped with thin-profile cushions with custom stitch details.

A secondary project scope, the exterior versions span 10 feet, are made of aluminium with a powder coat finish, and are the result of two years of product development. Fortunately this process began a year prior to Studio Brovhn’s working with the Museum. By the time the scope of indoor gallery benches at SFMOMA was almost complete, the metal benches were at the tail end of being production ready. “Developing the metal version of these benches took significantly longer than expected, and is the end result of partnering with the right metal supplier and resolving challenging engineering feats along the way,” says Miguel Brovhn, director of Studio Brovhn.

In addition to the benches, Studio Brovhn was also tasked with designing the Botta atrium ticketing stations. In an area with high traffic and variable programmatic needs, mobility was key, so Studio Brovhn designed custom metal desks, based on the profile of the Planar benches, but with built-in casters visible only on the inner side of the legs. They also feature detachable privacy screens on the underside, matching accessories on the desk top (for monitor screens, map holder), and a mobile pedestal unit that rests under each desk to house items like a printer, computer towers, garbage bin, and other supplies.