Revised Museum of Natural History Expansion files with LPC, preserves more park land

Posted On Fri, September 9, 2016 By

Posted On Fri, September 9, 2016 By In Architecture, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Starchitecture, Upper West Side 

After first revealing its controversial $325 million expansion almost a year ago, the American Museum of Natural History has now filed plans with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to move ahead with the Jeanne Gang-designed project. Though, as the Wall Street Journal reports, there’s been some changes, mainly those responding to the community’s concerns over how much of the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation will encroach on Theodore Roosevelt Park, a city-owned space near the back of the museum at 79th Street.

The new curving Center will occupy one-quarter of an acre of the park, and two historic trees–a 125-year-old English elm and a 75-year-old pin oak tree– will be preserved. Therefore, the public space leading into the museum will have better circulation and more gathering spaces.

American Museum of Natural History, Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang, NYC starchitecture, NYC museum architecture
The curving glass and stone facade echoes the forms of the historic cylindrical towers and turrets at the Museum

American Museum of Natural History, Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang, NYC starchitecture, NYC museum architecture
Photo via Reed Hilderbrand

As the Journal notes, “other shifts may be less welcome.” The expansion has grown to 235,000 square feet, an eight percent increase. Though this won’t affect its height or footprint in the park, it will likely inflate the budget slightly. And as put forth last year, three existing buildings along Columbus Avenue will be torn down.

American Museum of Natural History, Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang, NYC starchitecture, NYC museum architecture

American Museum of Natural History, Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang, NYC starchitecture, NYC museum architecture
The interior is made of undulating reinforced concrete and structurally supports the space and carves out different levels and areas.

Some local community groups are still concerned about the “monumental structure,” but museum officials remain adamant that the new Center will solve circulation issues and created an integrated space for museum activities and research.

Dan Slippen, the museum’s vice president of government affairs, noted that the park design is merely a proposal and still has to receive approvals from both the LPC and Department of Parks & Recreation. A public information session is planned for September 13th; see a list of all public hearings here.

As of November 2015, more than half of the funds had been raised ($44.3 million from the city and $5 million from the state) and the anticipated opening date was 2019 or 2020.

[Via WSJ]

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All renderings courtesy of Studio Gang unless otherwise noted

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