Image ©Bridgette Meinhold
The Utah Natural History Museum
recently moved into its new home at the Rio Tinto Center
at the base of the Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake City, and we were on the scene to take a peek. Designed by Todd Schliemann and New York City-based Ennead Architects
, the striking museum is home to dinosaurs, artifacts, fossils, animal specimens, minerals and much, much more. Made with copper mined locally from the other side of the city, the interactive museum and repository was built as a representation of the physical geography of Utah with its vast canyons, soaring mountains, and expansive plateaus. Since the museum is dedicated to the natural wonders of the state, it's no surprise that it was designed to help preserve them by minimizing its impact on the environment. Currently the museum is awaiting LEED Gold certification, and this author was lucky enough to take a tour of the museum to get a first-hand look inside and speak with Todd Schliemann about the design process.
The Utah Natural History Museum is the caretaker of 1.2 million objects from the fields of paleontology, archeology, ethnology, entomology, vertebrate zoology, mineralogy, botany and malacology. Not only does the museum work to preserve these precious artifacts, it also actively works to study their collection and educate residents, schoolchildren and visitors. The new museum was built to house a significant portion of the collection and to provide interactive exhibits about the natural history of the region. Back in 2005, Todd Schliemann of Ennead was selected to come up with the design for the museum, which was recently completed at the end of 2011. Todd Schliemann and Don Weinreich led the design team with the help of GSBS Architects, Big-D Construction and Design Workshop for landscape architecture.
To come up with a design that represented the physical geography of Utah without being too literal, Todd Schliemann came for an extensive visit to tour the landscape. What he saw blew him away. He fell in love with the Grand Staircase, Escalante and Range Creek – an amazing archeological site kept hidden away and perfectly preserved by a careful rancher. His tour of the state greatly influenced the overall design, which is a cross between a huge cliff and a precious mineral. The faceted volume is covered in shimmering stripes of copper and is buried deep into the hillside as though it were a giant rock that has emerged from the earth. Board-formed concrete brings to mind stratified rock and native landscaping was designed to make it seem as though the building were part of the landscape and not something that just popped up.