The AM Architecture Museum was founded in 1984 on a private initiative as a foundation, and opened in the same year on the street Pfluggässlein in Basel's Domus Haus.
This 1958 cubic icon of Swiss architecture by Max Rasser and Tibère Vadi was saved by the founding of the museum.
The director at the time, Ulrike Jehle Schulte-Strathaus, ran the museum with a steady hand for 22 years and realised over 100 exhibitions, including "The Three Trees" by Charles Simonds, Herzog & de Meuron "Architektur Denkform / Architecture Thought-Form" and "Architectural Guide Basel: The Exhibition to Accompany the Book".
Back then, the conceptual focus was on famous and younger Swiss architects from the present and the past, Swiss architectural themes in general, and monographic exhibitions on international architects, such as Rafael Moneo, Frank O. Gehry and Rem Koolhaas.
In 2003, the AM moved to the Kunsthalle Basel building, in a top location on the street Steinenberg beside the Kunsthalle gallery, near institutions such as Theater Basel, the cinema Stadtkino and the casino Stadtcasino, and not far from the art museum Kunstmuseum Basel. The entrance is clearly visible on one of the inner city's most important streets.
For the design of the conversion, the transformation of the neo-baroque rooms for the purposes of exhibiting, the architecture museum was able to attract Zurich-based architect Peter Märkli. His consciously clear handling of the existing fabric gives the rooms the clarity of structure necessary for architecture exhibitions. The architectural office Miller & Maranta, which is responsible for the entire renovation of Kunsthalle, oversaw the work on site.
In 2006, AM became the S AM Swiss Architecture Museum and the reins were passed to Francesca Ferguson. Giving the museum this national name internationalised the museum's aspirations, function and objectives. By means of her thematic exhibitions, Ferguson strove to give the museum a new, more international orientation, and greater integration into an international context and discourse. Francesca Ferguson also enhanced the exhibitions' accompanying programme. From 2009 to 2012, on an interim basis, the museum was run by a co-directorate comprising artistic and administrative directors. 2013 - 2015 Hubertus Adam headed the S AM Swiss Architecture Museum.
Since May 2016 Andreas Ruby has been director of S AM.
Since its founding, 30 years ago, the S AM Swiss Architecture Museum has developed into a platform for Swiss and international architecture exhibitions that stimulate and enrich architectural discourse to a significant extent. In changing exhibitions, individual aspects of architecture are addressed, and implemented in text, image and sound.
Between then and now, around 150 exhibitions and countless accompanying events in the form of presentations, podium discussions, talks, workshops and guided tours, as well as numerous publications to accompany exhibitions, have been realised.
From the very start, the goal was to make architectural issues accessible to a wider public and to prioritise the mediation of contemporary architecture.
As a location for lively exchange and a network platform, S AM has since become a popular meeting place.