The Dallas Museum of Nature & Science was formed in 2006 to inspire and educate the scientists of the future. Now its leaders have selected Thom Mayne, of Los Angeles-based Morphosis, as the architect for a new flagship building because they believe that he can help fulfill the institution’s mission.
“Mayne is an teacher himself,” said Frank-Paul King, chairman of the museum’s board, speaking shortly before the museum’s press conference yesterday. King added that this background gives Mayne a unique understanding of how to create educational environments. The architect was one of four finalists along with New York-based Polshek Partners, Tokyo-based Shigeru Ban, and Oslo-based Snøhetta. The museum selected them last year from a list of 100 architects and invited representatives of the firms to present their designs to the public at a standing-room-only crowd in July.
The 2005 winner of the Pritzker Prize, Mayne is known for maverick projects including the Phare Tower, in Paris, the Federal Building, in San Francisco, and the Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon. He is also committed to education, having co-founded the Southern California Institute of Architecture in 1972 and currently holding a tenured faculty position at the University of California at Los Angeles’ School of Arts and Architecture.
At the press conference yesterday, Mayne said that he has “absolutely no preconceptions” about the new museum, currently planned for 150,000 square feet. Afterward, he added that he intends to “rethink the museum—what is its purpose? What is an exhibit? What qualities of that experience are still cogent today?” His goal is to take information and “make it accessible—while maintaining the enigma and the mystery about science” that will inspire the world’s future mathematicians, scientists, and doctors.
Formed out of the merger of the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place, and the Dallas Children’s Museum in 2006, the Museum of Nature & Science was Dallas’s most-visited museum in 2007. With a planned construction cost of $155 million, construction on the new building is expected to begin in 2009. It will be located on a 4.7-acre site in Victory Park, a new mixed-use development on the northeast edge of downtown Dallas anchored by the American Airlines Center, home to the Mavericks basketball team and within walking distance of the West End entertainment district and the Dallas Arts District.
The museum intends the new building to supplement its current facility in Dallas’s Fair Park with increased space for permanent and traveling exhibitions; it will also include classrooms, a theater, a gift shop, and café.