Thom Mayne brought his L.A. road show to Dallas with the recent unveiling of the Perot Museum of Nature & Science. Named for billionaire businessman and former presidential candidate Ross Perot and his family, the $185 million building replaces a smaller Art Deco structure in Dallas’ historic Fair Park, two miles from downtown.
Models and renderings, unveiled September 17, show a taut-skinned, six-level cube with cutaway corners, a 150-foot escalator slashing diagonally across one façade, and an undulating landscape of native Texas trees and plants flowing out from the main lobby. A soaring asymmetrical atrium anchors the interior, offering views up to exhibits on everything from oil and gas exploration to paleontology and climate change.
The 180,000-square-foot museum will front the intersection of a tollway and an elevated freeway, surrounded by parking lots, gas stations, strip malls, and apartments—a vintage L.A. site, in other words, in which predictably Mayne finds as many opportunities as challenges. “It’s not a contextual site,” he understates, “so the building will have to develop its own character. But it is also an opportunity to pull things together, to act as a kind of urban glue.”
Those “things” include Ross Perot Jr.’s $3 billion mixed-use development on the west and the Dallas Arts District two blocks to the east. The arts district contains major buildings by Renzo Piano, I.M.Pei, and Edward Larrabee Barnes; on October12, it will see the opening of the $354 million AT&T Performing Arts Center, featuring an opera house by Foster + Partners and a theater by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus.
The Perot Museum already has raised $125 million and CEO Nicole Small is confident about raising the remainder prior to the 2013 opening. “Our subject matter is at the center of what’s going on in the world,” she explains. “It touches everyone.”