NHM Commons, a new wing and community hub under construction at The Natural History Museums (NHM) of Los Angeles County, was designed to be both a destination and a portal into the building and to the surrounding grounds.
Major elements of the addition include sustainable gardens, a 400-seat multi-purpose theater that will offer daytime and evening events, free admission to the Judith Perlstein Welcome Center, which will house Gnatalie, “the first real skeletal mount of a long-neck dinosaur on the West Coast,” and Barbara Carrasco’s mural L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective.
The Commons’ amenities include a cafe with indoor/outdoor seating, a retail space inside the airy Wallis Annenberg Lobby, and a spacious plaza intended as a communal gathering point for events and relaxation. The latter will also serve as the Museum’s “front porch” to the neighboring Exposition Park.
The $75 million NHM Commons expansion and renovation, designed by Frederick Fisher & Partners with landscape design by Studio-MLA, will create 75,000 sf of renovated space and new construction. The Native American Advisory Council, which represents native communities in Southern California including Gabrieleno-Tongva, Tataviam, Chumash, and Ajachmem, contributed to programming and provided design input for the project. The council focused on ways to build a sense of welcome, acknowledgment, respect for native people who enter the space, and on opportunities to remind, express to, and educate visitors that Los Angeles is on native land.
NHM Commons is part of a 10-year plan aimed at increasing access to research and collections that will provide more resources and amenities for neighboring communities and create integrated indoor-outdoor destinations at The Natural History Museums in Exposition Park and at La Brea Tar Pits in Hancock Park.
The reimagining of La Brea Tar Pits—the only active urban paleontological site in the world—has begun with the early stages of master planning by the architectural team of Weiss/Manfredi.
On the project team:
Owner and/or developer: County of Los Angeles, Fundraising and Project Implementation by the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum Foundation
Design architect: Frederick Fisher and Partners
Architect of record: Frederick Fisher and Partners
MEP engineer: BuroHappold
Structural engineer: John A. Martin & Associates
General contractor/construction manager: MATT Construction