The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) has unveiled three preliminary masterplan concepts for the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits — the only consistently active and urban Ice Age excavation site in the world. Copenhagen-based Dorte Mandrup, New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro and New York-based WEISS/MANFREDI were selected as the finalist teams in the NHMLAC-hosted “ideas incubator” in June 2019 and have presented their visions at the museum at the La Brea Tar Pits for public viewing through September 15. All three designs emphasize improving community access to the 12-acre site in addition to the creation of sustainable infrastructure and careful site preservation.

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Because NHMLAC is in a public/private partnership with the County of Los Angeles, all masterplan visions will emphasize the integration of the county-owned, 23-acre Hancock Park with the 12-acre La Brea Tar Pits site. Although the integration of green space with the museum collections is integral to all three proposals, each campus vision is distinct. Dorte Mandrup suggests interweaving the park, the tar pits and a lush landscape of prehistoric plants and trees as well as a Pleistocene solar pixel mural to emphasize the world’s most recent period of repeated glaciations.

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On the other hand, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s “light touch” focuses more on museum activities and will feature a publicly accessible dig site supported by a mobile “digital rig” that can anticipate current and future digs in the park, a new light-filled lobby and an “Archive Block” that allows visitors to peer inside the Research Lab.

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WEISS/MANFREDI’s proposal is centered on the design of a triple mobius pedestrian pathway to connect the La Brea Tar Pits with Hancock Park, which will be surrounded by enhanced amenities.

The three proposals are currently on view at the La Brea Tar Pits museum through September 15 as well as on its website. The public is encouraged to provide feedback onsite or online. In addition to public feedback, NHMLAC will consider input from a jury that it has assembled to help the selection of the one firm that will lead the masterplanning effort.

+ La Brea Tar Pits

Images via Dorte Mandrup, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and WEISS/MANFREDI