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The New Nature & Science Museum in Dallas

by Jerome Weeks 17 Sep 2009 4:38 PM

The Museum of Nature & Science unveiled the schematic designs and the building model for its new $185-million home on Thursday. Architect Thom Mayne explains the design choices for his 170-foot-tall cube bound for Victory Park:


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The Museum of Nature & Science unveiled the schematic designs and the building model for its new $185-million home. The Perot Museum of Nature & Science will be on the northwest corner of Field Street at Woodall Rodgers Freeway in Dallas. Groundbreaking for the facility will be late 2009, completion in 2013.

Designed by Thom Mayne — Pritzker Prize-winner and head of the Morphosis design firm — the 170-foot-tall cube will feature windows looking out to downtown. Visitors will travel from the atrium to the top floor on an escalator encased in a glass tube.

Mayne says he wanted visitors be able to look out over Woodall Rodgers and feel connected to downtown.

“As you move through the galleries vertically, you’re always coming back to the city. Looking at the city and then going back to the exhibit hall,” he said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. “And it’s really important that we continually make this connection to its urban environment and to the city.”

Main Lobby smallArchitecture critic Witold Rybczynski has written that “revolutionary” and “maverick” are pretty overblown phrases to use for architects and their designs. Buildings, after all, have to meet fire codes, zoning regulations, client demands, etc. If they’re “revolutionary,” it’s mostly in the matter of taste — colors, materials, textures, angles — and not in fundamental matters of access, safety and function. Nonetheless, Rybczynski writes

“Thom Mayne’s taste tends to the shocking; if he were a filmmaker, he would be Roger Corman. His buildings have jagged, fractured forms and haphazard compositions that make them look, at first glance, as if they were not quite finished — or were falling apart. This is a subterfuge, of course, since they are solidly built and carefully detailed, but their appearance leaves the distinct impression of chaos.

“Shocking, too, is the trademark large lettering that adorns many of his designs. The effect is both commercial and arty, and recalls the buildings of Russian architects during the early days of the Revolution. Constructivism, as the style was called, attempted to evoke the sense of a world turned upside down, of a new order, and of unprecedented change. Change seems to appeal to Mayne — after all, his architectural firm is named Morphosis. In the sunny context of Southern California, sudden change makes one think of earthquakes rather than social upheavals, but the connotation seems weirdly apropos.”

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The museum is still about $60 million short of its estimated $185 million cost. But museum officials were confident Thursday that the goal would be met, noting that it is a common practice for construction to begin when at least half of the funds are raised.

The public is invited to view the design model on Saturday from 2-5 p.m. at the Museum of Nature & Science’s Construction Center (1155 Broom St., just North of Woodall Rodgers).

  • Read the Dallas Morning News story here.