Five architectural firms make it into L.A. museum finals

March 28, 2002 |

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is moving forward with an innovative building project that will combine new construction with portions of its historically significant structures, in the process completely restoring the museum's original 1913 beaux-arts-inspired building. With dynamic installations and programming that integrate natural and cultural history, the new Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will maintain its historic position at the heart of the city's Exposition Park while serving as a crossroads integrating downtown Los Angeles with the surrounding communities.

In a unanimous decision, the museum's board of trustees announced today the selection of five architectural firms as design finalists for the phased building project, which will total approximately 500,000 square feet upon completion. The selected architects are, in alphabetical order: David Chipperfield Architects (London); Foster and Partners (London), Herzog & de Meuron (Basel); Steven Holl Architects (New York); and Machado and Silvetti Associates (Boston).

'By redesigning our buildings and exhibitions, we will be able to accommodate our growing audiences, collections and programming. These five firms have all demonstrated that they are responsive to our vision and have the experience and ingenuity to create a dynamic and evocative new cultural institution. The new museum will respect the historic integrity of our original building while helping to redefine the architectural landscape of Los Angeles,' said Jane Pisano, president and director of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. 'We are confident that with any of these superb architects, we will be able to fulfill our mission, which is to inspire wonder, discovery and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds. And we'll do this in a way that enhances Exposition Park as common ground for all of the communities of Los Angeles, connecting people and the environment across generations.'

All the finalists have received widespread recognition and awards in recent years for projects around the world that have set new precedents in contemporary architectural design.

David Chipperfield has designed a number of significant museum projects in Europe and the United States including the reconstruction of the Neues Museum and the New Entrance Building on Berlin's Museum Island, the award-winning River and Rowing Museum at Henley-on-Thames, the reorganization and refurbishment of the Central Hall and Plant Galleries at the Natural History Museum in London and the Davenport Museum of Art in Iowa.

Foster and Partners has received international acclaim, as well as the Pritzker Prize, for its architecture and design of projects including the Great Court at the British Museum in London, the New German Parliament, Reichstag in Berlin, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, the addition to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha and a recently unveiled master plan for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Herzog & de Meuron, also a winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, has major projects in Europe, Asia and the United States, including their critically acclaimed design for Tate Modern, which transformed the Bankside Power Station in London, the Museum Kuppersmuhle-Grothe Collection in Duisburg, the New de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, and the expansion of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Steven Holl Architects has worked on projects both nationally and overseas ranging from the Bellevue Art Museum in Washington, to the renovation and expansion of historically important structures, including the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo.; the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; the Higgins Hall School of Architecture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Sarphatistraat Offices in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Machado and Silvetti Associates, Inc. is known for distinctive urban spaces and unique works of architecture in the United States and abroad including a master plan for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, a center for comparative archaeology at the Getty Villa in Malibu, California, the comprehensive master plan for Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, a museum for the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and a branch of the Boston Public Library.

Each of these firms is capable of meeting the design goals established by the Natural History Museum: creating landmark architecture, melding historic with contemporary architecture; showcasing sustainable design principles, integrating interior and exterior to inspire connections between individuals, community and planet; connecting with the historic Exposition Park and its urban context, and helping to create a new model for natural history museums worldwide.

In May 2002 the five architects are scheduled to meet with the Museum's Architectural Selection Committee to present relevant past projects and discuss their conceptual design approach to the Natural History Museum project. The final selection of the architect will be made in summer 2002, when a local Executive Architect also will be selected. An exhibition designer will be announced shortly thereafter. Completion of the Master Plan for the new Museum is projected for 2003, with the unveiling of the schematic design slated for 2004. The Museum is scheduled to break ground in 2006, with a projected first-phase completion date of 2009. The preliminary first-phase project budget is in the range of $100 million in construction costs (excluding exhibitions), with a total budget of $200-300 million.

Members of the Museum's Architecture Screening Committee made their short list recommendation to the Board of Trustees, following a six-month open process, when the Committee reviewed the work of 70 architectural firms around the world, including four Pritzker Prize winners. The Museum's Selection and Screening Committees consist primarily of Museum leadership and board members, including architects. A number of advisors experienced in the process also were consulted.

The new Museum project proposes the reconstruction of the existing 410,000-square-foot building, including the selective replacement of portions of the structure and the preservation and renovation of the remaining historic portions, including the nationally registered original Museum building. The design is intended to optimize accessibility to the Museum's expansive and diverse collections and research resources that include more than 33 million specimens and artifacts covering 4.5 billion years of Earth and human history. In addition, 80,000 square feet of offsite facilities will be relocated to the Museum's 14-acre site in Exposition Park.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Founded in 1913, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is the largest museum of natural and cultural history in the western United States. The Museum's world-class research and collections programs center on objects and specimens relating to 21 disciplines, including history, anthropology, mineral sciences, invertebrate and vertebrate zoology, invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology and botany. The Museum's unique mission combines cultural and natural science collections that allow for in-depth exploration of the relationships between humankind and the environment.

The Museum's 130,000 square feet of public galleries -- which include halls devoted to gems and minerals, extant and extinct mammals, dinosaurs, birds, marine life, Native American and pre-Columbian cultures and U.S. and Southwest history -- and its innovative on- and off-site educational programs serve more than 750,000 students, families and adults each year.

The Natural History Museum is located at 900 Exposition Boulevard. The Museum is open seven days a week, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $8 for adults, $2 for children 5-12 and $5.50 for students/seniors. Children under 5 are free. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounted rates by calling (213) 763-3218. For 24-hour Museum information please call (213) 763-DINO or visit the Museum's website at

The Natural History Family of Museums includes the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits and the William S. Hart Museum, together serving more than 1 million people annually.

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