First it was MoMA and the Whitney. Then came the Frick and Guggenheim. Now it's the American Museum of Natural History. The Times reports that the Upper West Side institution is planning a $325 million expansion that would rise on part of city-run Theodore Roosevelt Park, which surrounds the museum's historic building. The expansion has not yet been designed, but it would house the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation and could be complete for the museum's 150th birthday in 2019. The 218,000-square-foot space (about the size of the Whitney's new downtown digs) will be created by renowned architect Jeanne Gang.
The Times astutely notes that "the expansion will probably face close scrutiny from residents of the Upper West Side." Considering the current backlash over a church-to-condo conversion, it's not probable that the museum will face opposition; it's definite. Plus, the expansion would take away open space, which no one ever cheers, anywhere. But the museum's senior vice president for operations and capital programs told the Times that "The vast majority of the open space on the west side of the museum, between 77th and 81st Streets, will remain open space when the project is completed."
The designs will need to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Cultural Affairs Department, and the Parks Department, but city support for the expansion is evident; the annual budget has $15 million set aside for it. With support from donors, a third of the $325 million has already been raised. The parks department's Manhattan borough commissioner said they will be reviewing the proposal.
The new construction would be 180,000 square feet, while the rest would be built out of existing museum space, and it would connect on the western side of the building. Gang could not say what it would look like or how it would relate to the landmarked building, but she said she designs with "an acute sensitivity and sensibility about the relationship of nature to the built environment in an urban setting." Museum reps said it would not be taller than the current building.
· American Museum of Natural History Plans an Addition [NYT]
· All American Museum Of Natural History coverage [Curbed]