DALLAS l Perot Museum of Nature & Science at Victory Park
Plans for Perot Museum of Nature & Science at Victory Park to be unveiled today
11:54 AM CDT on Thursday, September 17, 2009
By SCOTT CANTRELL / The Dallas Morning News
Plans for the boldest piece of modern architecture to hit Dallas are being unveiled today. The Perot Museum of Nature & Science at Victory Park, designed by Pritzker Prize laureate Thom Mayne and his California architecture firm Morphosis, is expected to break ground this year and open in early 2013.
Schematic renderings and models of the complex will go on public display Saturday at the construction center on the museum's future site at the northwest corner of Field Street and Woodall Rodgers Freeway.
The Morphosis design loudly proclaims the $185 million museum's double focus on science and nature.
The main gallery spaces will be in a big cube-shaped structure as tall as a 14-story building. It will have a stark, high-tech look, with a 150-foot escalator structure jutting out from the south side. A cutaway corner atrium will offer dramatic views of downtown and at night, dramatic views into the building. The cladding has not been determined.
Forming the base of the cube and extending beyond it on the south and east sides will be a low complex of lobby, cafe, shop, auditorium, temporary exhibition space and educational facilities capped with an undulating roof landscaped with rocks and native drought-resistant grasses. An urban plaza will extend from the lobby onto the roof deck. Landscaping will be developed by the local firm Talley Associates.
The main entrance, on the west side, will be approached through a small forest of mature native trees and water features and another open plaza with a sheltered area for cafe tables. Educational facilities will be accessible from a separate, lower-level entrance on the east side designed for school bus drop-offs.
"Every detail of the museum, from the natural path in, to the way the building is structured, really delivers on our mission," said Nicole Small, museum president and CEO. "The building needs to make a bold statement, and nature and science, technology and engineering really meet in this building."
Moving from Fair Park
Now based at Fair Park, the Museum of Nature & Science was formed by the 2006 merger of the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place and the Dallas Children's Museum. Its new downtown home will include displays on paleontology, earth sciences, energy, gems and minerals, life and medical sciences, engineering and technology, and sports science. A 7,500-square-foot exhibition space is planned for traveling shows.
"Dinosaurs to DNA, we do it all," Small says.
The new building's design was developed in collaboration with several consultants and with input from staff and members of the board of directors who visited more than two dozen science museums in the U.S. and abroad.
Since Morphosis was announced as architect early last year, the project has grown from 150,000 to 180,000 square feet, and from a $155 million price tag to $185 million. That figure covers site acquisition, exhibition planning and design, educational programs and an endowment as well as approximately $82.5 million in actual construction costs. The museum already has pledges of $125 million, including a $50 million lead gift from the children of Margot and H. Ross Perot, for whom the building will be named.
Small is optimistic about raising the rest.
"A lot of museums break ground at 50 percent of capital," she says, "and we're way beyond that. The community has shown real excitement about this project, and we think that's only going to accelerate now that they can see what they're investing in. Science education is so critical to our future. And the thing that's cool about this project is that you're bringing together so many interests."
The museum building will add another winner of architecture's most prestigious international prize to the four represented in the nearby Dallas Arts District: I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas.
Known for designs with dramatically unpredictable geometries, Morphosis counts the new San Francisco Federal Building and the Tour Phare skyscraper in Paris among its projects. The firm's flared and gashed Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art opened this week in New York.
The Perot Museum site, adjacent to the elevated Woodall Rodgers Freeway, is a natural for a 37-year-old architecture practice steeped in iconoclastic California urbanism. And it could help link Victory Park, the West End, the new Woodall Rodgers deck park and the Arts District.
"Dallas is a very modern city," Mayne says, "a post-Los Angeles city. We understood that the building will be very much viewed from the downtown and the freeway, which gave us a reason for increased height."
Mayne describes the vertical part of the design, enclosing six levels from basement to top-of-building mechanicals, as "a distorted cube," which is sliced open and peeled back here and there for glazed views in and out. But the real surprises are in the atrium, with sharp angles and multiplicity of viewpoints.
"As you move into the museum, you're going to look all the way up and see people in layers in all of the galleries," Mayne says. "The diversity of spaces you move through becomes extremely important, and it was very important for us to connect to the city.
"But the lower level is itself an exhibit – a landscape that's going to be developed ecologically and evolve over time. The lobby space moves out into this landscape. It's as if we cut a piece of nature 25 miles outside of Dallas and brought it into the city."
Small says the museum plans to repurpose its buildings in Fair Park. With some modifications, the Nature Building will house the museum's research department. The Science Building is envisioned as a charter math-and-science school for at-risk children.
Plans are uncertain for the Planetarium, which will be superseded by more up-to-date facilities in the new building.
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." -- Galileo
Last edited by jtk1519; Sep 18, 2009 at 4:53 PM.