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Natural History Museum's $325M Expansion Plan, Revealed

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The American Museum of Natural History has finally revealed the design for its $325 million expansion. The museum's board has unanimously voted to approve Jeanne Gang's contemporary addition, which will house the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation. The board-approved design will now be passed for approval to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Cultural Affairs Department, and the Parks Department. The Times calls the expansion design "both cautious and audacious"; cautious for the addition's footprint in the surrounding Teddy Roosevelt Park, which has been paired back to reflect the concerns of neighbors, and audacious for its undulating, contemporary exterior and equally imaginative interior that still manages to nod to the museum's historic structure.

If approved as-is, the addition will consume three of the museum's 25 existing on-site structures. The move to expand more into its existing footprint is a response to the community's candid concern that the addition may too greatly impinge on Teddy Roosevelt Park, the public green space that surrounds the museum. Gang's design reflects that concern by expanding into a smaller portion of the park than was originally anticipated; initial plans for the addition called for 180,000 square feet of new construction, but the new plan will only cover an additional 11,600 square feet of the park. The remainder of the 280,000-square-foot addition will be built over the museum's existing footprint.

The Times wisely points out that "[a] sore point will be the fate of the trees in the park." Although the addition will spread into the park in a much smaller way than previously imagined, nine trees will need to be removed, with one of those relocated. Ultimately, 17 trees will be added to the park, as well as 17 benches—up from seven. The new addition will also not exceed the museum's existing height.

The addition's undulating glass facade is meant to emulate the landmarked museum's cylindrical towers and turrets while also "[sending] a message that this is a new building for a new era" in the study and advancement of science. The building's interiors will be composed of reinforced concrete that will also act as structural support. Thirty new connections will be created throughout the museum's disparate collection of on-site buildings that will smooth out the path of visitors so that the staff "no longer have visitors bumping into cul-de-sacs or dead ends," Gang told the Times. The addition will also bring a new entrance to the museum on Columbus Avenue between 79th and 80th streets.

Over one-half of the funds needed for the addition have already been collected by the museum, including $44.3 million in city finding and $5 million from the state.
· Museum of Natural History Reveals Design for Expansion [NYT]
· Natural History Museum Plans $325M Addition On Parkland [Curbed]
· UWS Residents Rally Against Natural History Museum Expansion [Curbed]
· All American Museum of Natural History coverage [Curbed]