The Board of Trustees of the American Museum of Natural History endorsed the conceptual design for the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, a new building that will invite visitors to experience the Museum not only as a place of public exhibitions but as an active scientific and educational institution. Designed by architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects and set into the Columbus Avenue side of the Museum complex at 79th Street, the Gilder Center is the embodiment of the Museum’s increasingly integrated mission of science, education, and exhibition.
At a time of urgent need for better public understanding of science and for greater access to science education, the Gilder Center will offer visitors, including the general public and school groups, new ways to learn about science and to share in the excitement of discovery. To ensure that the next generation has the skills and imagination for scientific innovation, the Gilder Center will provide interdisciplinary learning spaces that place STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and other educational experiences in the context of world-class scientific research and collections.
In designing the Central Exhibition Hall, which will serve as the Museum’s Columbus Avenue entrance, Gang came up with the core idea of connecting this space to the geographic center of the Museum. Informed by processes found in nature, the gallery forms a continuous, flowing spatial experience along an east-west axis, allowing visitors to move beneath and across connective bridges and along sculpted walls that house the Museum’s many programs.
Recessed cavities in the sculptural walls create niches that will house exhibition elements designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, as well as laboratories, imaging facilities, visualization theaters, and classrooms while also revealing more of the Museum’s extensive scientific collections.
Following Studio Gang’s signature approach, in which material and structure are expressed for their inherent properties, the reinforced concrete walls of the Central Exhibition Hall, with its arches and niches, will have more than a purely aesthetic purpose: they will form the weight-bearing structure of the building’s interior. The visual language of the Central Exhibition Hall informed the conceptual design of the façade, which imagines the interior walls emerging and wrapping around the exterior.
The exterior will be clad in glass and stone, which will be selected in the upcoming design phase with consideration of materials used in the existing complex. The conceptual design maintains the current heights of the Museum building complex on its western side, placing the Columbus Avenue façade at the same height as the buildings on either side of the new entrance. On the south side, the façade is aligned with the adjacent building and steps back to meet the bordering building to the north. The conceptual design is consistent with the axial intention of the original 1872 master plan while recognizing the park setting in which the Museum is located.
The Gilder Center is named for Museum Trustee Richard Gilder, who has donated more than $125 million to the Museum, including $50 million for the new center. The project cost is estimated to be $325 million, of which more than half has been raised. Approximately 80 percent of the 218,000-square-foot project will be located within the area currently occupied by the Museum, creating vital connections throughout the complex.
Three existing buildings within the Museum complex will be removed to minimize the impact on land that is now open space in Theodore Roosevelt Park to about 11,600 square feet (approximately a quarter acre). If approved, construction of the Gilder Center will begin in 2017 after completion of the design. The goal is to open the Gilder Center in 2020, at the conclusion of the Museum’s 150th anniversary in 2019. Source by Department of Communications American Museum of Natural History, Images Courtesy of Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation.