Polshek Partnership Architects - The Utah Museum of Natural History Print
Wednesday, 21 May 2008 06:45

Utah_Museum_Natural_History_eyelevel_1.jpg The Utah Museum of Natural History, is an active research institution located at the University of Utah, that cares for over 1.5 million objects. It provides unique natural history experiences to Utah residents and tourists through traveling and permanent exhibits, special events and other programs.

The new building rests on a series of terraces that step up the hill and lay along the contours of the site, with minimal disruption to the adjacent natural landscape. In addition, running and hiking trails in the immediate area are preserved and enhanced.

All images © Red Square Inc. for Polshek Partnership and GSBS Architects

The 17-acre site is located on the high “bench” that marks the shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville and offers breathtaking views in all directions.
In its forms and materials, the building is conceived as an abstract extension and transformation of the land. Its material quality roots the building in the landscape by recalling Utah’s geological and mineralogical history and expressing the design as natural form. Board-formed concrete at the base makes the transition from the earth to the manmade. Copper panels constitute the skin of the building, extending from the building’s volume at angles that reference the geophysical processes that created the metal. The importance of this precious metal throughout human history makes powerful connections to the narrative and educational mission of the Museum, and the site’s proximity to the Kennecott Copper Mine across the valley and the use of this local material reinforces the Museum’s connection to its context.

Utah_Museum_Natural_History_Aerial.jpg The standing seam copper façade is articulated in horizontal bands of various heights to emulate geological stratification on the building skin. Small amounts of copper alloys, such as copper-zinc and copper-tin, enhance the subtle variegation of the copper’s natural patina. Combined in a dynamic interplay with the concrete of the building’s base, these materials display the character of the Museum from all vantage points, visible not only from the main building approach, but from the hiking trails above and the city below.  

Utah_Museum_Natural_History_Interior.jpg Within this canyon-like main public space, bridges and vertical circulation organize the visitor sequence, views south across the basin orient the museumgoer and the grand vertical scale uplifts and inspires.

Contained within are: the “collections wall,” a multi-story glass vitrine, which displays and interprets artifacts found in the Museum’s collection; “Trailhead” exhibits and information; and a relief map of the region, which is embedded in the floor. Shafts of sunlight penetrate the apex of the Canyon, suffusing the space with natural light and beckoning visitors to ascend to the galleries.

The project was designed by Polshek Partnership Architects in partnership with GSBS Architects

Last Updated on Monday, 23 November 2009 16:46