Natural History Museum of Utah | The Plan
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Natural History Museum of Utah

Ennead Architects | GSBS Architects

The programme for the new Natural History Museum of Utah meshes architectural design with museum-specific requirements within an overall framework of environmental sustainability to meet the scientific and educational goals the museum has set itself. Designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, the new museum is literally and figuratively at the threshold of nature and culture. Exhibits and displays narrate the passage of time, directly referencing the natural and anthropological history of the surrounding region. The building itself embodies the concept of the museum as an institution interpreted in the light of contemporary thinking on the museum’s mission. At the same time, it is a context-based architecture fulfilling its specific architectural role of conferring identity - in this specific case, creating an innovative showcase providing an inspirational visitor experience along with new ways to achieve environmental safeguard. Architecture is here both the sum and outward expression of knowledge, the result of a complex journey of exploration into the specifics of place. The striking geometries lie in essential continuity with the natural topography. The building is terraced into a hillside that was once the shoreline of the prehistoric pluvial Lake Bonneville. It grows like the stratified layers all around, the top level looking out to the distant mountain range. The material palette also roots it in the landscape. The board-formed concrete at the base makes the transition from the earth to the manmade; concrete then gives way to copper panel cladding that continues up to the soffits of the overhanging volumes. Accent panels of copper alloy enhance the subtle variegation of copper’s natural patina. Set roughly on a north-south axis, the museum is divided into two blocks, each made up of three adjacent, partly overlapping, strips. The two blocks are hinged at slightly different angles to a voluminous central public space - the Canyon. The north wing is given...

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