After winning the competition for the new El Paso Children’s Museum, Snøhetta has designed a light filled, lofty and playful museum in the heart of the city. The architecture reveals itself as a cloud, floating above the desert connecting all people in this important place, young and old alike. Designed to support all from the youngest to the most senior members of the region’s families, the museum holds accessibility and bilingualism as core values, with interpretive text provided in both English and Spanish. In the spirit of celebrating the free movement of ideas and culture irrespective of geopolitical borders, the EPCM includes an exhibit which interacts with the nearby Museo La Rodadora, a children’s museum and interactive space in Juarez, Mexico.
The new 70,000 SF museum is positioned within the heart of El Paso’s Downtown Arts district, close to the vibrant San Jacinto plaza and less than one kilometer from El Paso del Norte, a major border-crossing station. The building’s unique geometries immediately set it apart in the city’s skyline: the rectilinear base is wrapped in glass, providing interior views to entice passersby to stop inside the public lobby, and is topped by a rippling succession of barrel vaults which soar to a cloud-like crown. El Paso has nearly 300 sunny days on average per year, and accordingly, the design provides ample outdoor public amenities such as streetscapes and gathering areas and gardens, which are influenced by the geology and botanical landscape of the Chihuahuan desert.
At the eastern end of the building, a terraced discovery garden creates a series of outdoor rooms, each with a distinct atmosphere to enjoy. Families can enjoy a respite from the sun and heat with a shady grove of trees and a cooling mist playground that acts as a low-flow water and recreation feature. The first floor is a warm, light-filled open space, and includes free exhibitions as well as a café and the entrance to the learning landscape. From the lobby, the vertical experience of the museum clarifies, as the 60-foot atrium delivers views to a spectacular climbing structure which spans the second to the fourth floor, with pathways that can accommodate multiple forms of access and varying mobility needs.
Windows and lookout points provide opportunities for introspection, with views to the Franklin Mountains to the northeast, and the Sierra de Juarez Mountains to the southwest. The new El Paso Children’s Museum aims to become a civic classroom and energy point for the region’s families, designed to maximize open-ended and imaginative play and exploration. Snøhetta’s design considers how the museum itself can become a learning tool. With spaces and exhibitions that inspire the imagination of both children and adults alike, the museum celebrates the unique culture and geography of El Paso while providing barrier-free access to educational opportunities. Source by Snøhetta.