CEO Nicole Small began the tours on the major milestone day with a short history. Since 2006, when the Dallas Children’s Museum, the Science Place and the Dallas Museum of Natural History were combined into the Museum of Nature and Science, the new exhibit building has been a far-off dream. Now, that dream will soon come to fruition.
The $185 million cost was funded without debt, which paid for the site acquisition, education programs, an endowment, exhibition planning and design, as well as construction of the new building, according to Build the Perot chair Forrest Hoglund.
Phase Two of fundraising is now underway to provide additional funds for traveling exhibitions, innovation and technology in exhibits, and the scholarship program.
“The museum is built and equipped,” Hoglund said. “Now, on to excellence.”
Project manager Jennifer Houston Scripps described the 180,000 square-foot building, with five public floors in the 14-story-tall building. There will be an atrium filled with natural light, a café, 3-D Theater, and 11 permanent exhibits. Amaze Designs from Boston, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and Paul Bernhard Exhibit Design of Austin contributed their expertise to the permanent exhibits. The building itself is a model of sustainability, as it is expected to receive LEED Gold certification, Green Globes accommodation, and fulfill the Sustainable Site Initiative. Landscaping around the building will include East Texas trees and cisterns to supply all non-potable water to the grounds and building.
Pritzker Prize winning architect Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis, designed the building. The iconic outside of the building reflects complexity and logic of geologic strata, which seems to change as sunlight and clouds reflect from the surface, as with natural rock. Mayne included the one-of-a-kind exterior escalator, which visitors will use as they leave the building, and will offer an overview of the city and East Texas landscape.
A Los Angeles-based architect, Mayne sees the urban site of the museum, nestled among freeways on the edge of Downtown, as perfect. The building’s windows are designed as portals on the important buildings of the CBD, such as the American Airlines Center and the Calatrava Bridge.
The grounds of the museum will flow into the building through the significant expanses of glass and rock and seamlessly join the exterior to the interior exhibits.
The entry itself will be a panorama of city and landscape, with nature creeping into the building under an inverted mountain range of the ceiling, complete with stalactites.
An interior escalator begins the visitors’ journey into the museum, as they move up with the flow of natural light through trees into the glass box of the city.
“The living building moves toward the city and back to complete the concept of a journey… through the narrative of 11 exhibit halls,” Mayne explained. The theme of movement and light goes throughout the building, in stark contrast to the blocky, dark building that currently houses the science museum in Fair Park.
Dr. Tony Fiorillo, chief curator, guided the media through what will be the Expanding Universe Hall into the T. Boone Pickens Life: Then and Now Hall. Greeting visitors will be a life-sized Alamosaurus reconstructed from fossils found at Big Bend National Park. The giant animal will be staged in a predator-prey scene with a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Because of the enormous size of both models, the ceiling heights in the museum are three times normal building height.
“The dinos drove the design,” explained Arne Emerson of Morphosis. Columns needed to be moved to the periphery of the space to accommodate the dinosaurs. Trusses hold the 28-foot concrete ceilings in place.
“The space is designed to be an inspiration for young engineers and scientists,” Emerson said. Leading from the reptiles will be dinosaur footprints that will morph into avian prints, showing the path of evolution as visitors move up through the exhibits into the Rose Hall of Birds.
Paul Bernhard of Paul Bernhard Exhibit Design presented the Gems and Minerals Hall. It will feature huge, beyond-life-sized minerals and a golden cube archway.
In the Tom Hunt Energy Hall, a model of a steam turbine will allow young energy explorers a chance to see how oil is drilled and a model of a cold fusion reactor will be showcased in the alternative energy exhibit.
The tour concluded with a look at the lower level. The ground floor houses the Rees-Jones Exhibition Hall and the Moody Family Children’s Museum.
While the school at Fair Park will be closed when the move is made to the downtown building, new learning labs filled with natural light will serve visitors, school groups and birthday parties. Early childhood programs will continue at the museum, serving children from infancy to five years old, and classes for older children will continue until sixth grade.
“Our programs will augment school science programs that lack facilities,” said Vice President of Education, Steve Hinkley.
For more information, go to buildtheperot.org.