The American Museum of Natural History has finally unveiled designs for its $325 million, six-story expansion. Designed by MacArthur Fellow and architect Jeanne Gang, the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation will bolster the museum’s mission to make scientific research and education more accessible to the public. In a conscious departure from the institution’s brick castle appearance, Gang’s striking contemporary design features an undulating interior that evokes canyons and caves formed by the natural force of erosion.
The new expansion will be located along Columbus Avenue on the museum’s rear grounds near West 79th Street. To minimize encroachment on the adjacent Theodore Roosevelt Park, the majority of the 218,000-square-foot Gilder Center will be carved out of the museum’s existing footprint. In contrast to the museum’s dominant brick-and-mortar facades, Gang’s design will be constructed from curvilinear stone and glass to let passersby see directly into the exhibits bathed in natural light.
The curving sculpted walls of the interior promote continuous, flowing movement along an east-west axis, leading visitors into the museum core. The design will also solve visitor circulation issues (the halls have been likened to a labyrinth in the past) by connecting many of the museum’s existing galleries. The addition has an expected completion date of 2019, in time for the museum’s 150th anniversary.
“The Gilder Center embraces the Museum’s integrated mission and growing role in scientific research and education and its enhanced capacity to make its extensive resources even more fully accessible to the public,” said Museum President Ellen V. Futter. “It will connect scientific facilities and collections to innovative exhibition and learning spaces featuring the latest digital and technological tools. Jeanne Gang’s thrilling design facilitates a new kind of fluid, cross-disciplinary journey through the natural world while respecting the Museum’s park setting.”
Images via American Museum of Natural History