American museums, still flush with expansion fever, have become more convinced than ever that real estate is destiny. Every museum in the country seems to be opening a new wing or a satellite building or scouting locations for one. And the recent news that the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has hired Renzo Piano brings the number of American museum jobs the Italian architect has won to 63. OK, to nine. But still.

Few museums, however, can hope to match the double expansion pulled off in just 3 1/2 months by the Seattle Art Museum. Coolly restrained, the SAM expansion keeps its ego in check and the focus on what’s inside.

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