SITE Santa Fe was beginning to feel constrained by the old beer warehouse it calls home. A renovation and expansion gave it the spaces it needs to thrive.

This project focused on a comprehensive upgrading of the exhibition and support spaces at SITE Santa Fe, one of the leading contemporary art institutions in the Southwest. Behind the scenes, our work included action to modernize environmental systems, provide the staff with new administrative and educational facilities, and streamline the handling and care for art in a reconfigured back-of-house. We also expanded SITE’s existing building to provide several new galleries, a large auditorium, a learning center, a new pre-admission zone with public services and amenities, and several outdoor spaces designed both for exhibition and gathering.

With its prominent location adjacent to a large park at the gateway to Santa Fe's Railyard District, SITE needed to perform well at the civic scale: welcoming the public and communicating the spirit of the institution and its neighborhood. Unlike the nearby historic center of the city, this area is defined by concrete and steel industrial structures, many re-purposed now for use by a range of arts and design enterprises. The new architecture serves to signpost that activity, as it invites the public inside.
A new café overlooks the main entrance forecourt. It occupies one end of the large pre-admission area that includes a purpose-built gallery for the experimental SITELab series, as well as visitor services and a redesigned store. These spaces are designed to always be accessible, even as the main galleries close to mount new shows.

The folded, perforated aluminum system defining the exterior of the building was calibrated to respond dramatically to the intense Santa Fe light. In keeping with SITE’s scrappy nature as an institution, these elements were reserved for the two major entrances, with a simple gray stucco used on the long, mostly windowless walls in between.

The character and performance of the new and renovated interior spaces was of particular concern for this project. SITE’s work as an innovative arts institution had at times been restricted by its existing building. The minimal changes made to it over the previous decades had become part of SITE’s story—and its appeal to visitors—but the raw warehouse nonetheless posed significant operational limitations. As the organization matured, SITE was faced with the profound logistical demands relating to art handling and display that are common to museums everywhere. By engaging fully with SITE’s administration and staff in an efficient process of discovery, we were able to develop a physical and material strategy for meeting their staging and support needs, while also designing new and renovated gallery spaces that fulfilled the expectations of their expanding audience.