Sunday, September 20, 2009

Downtown Perot Museum of Nature & Science

Renderings and a building model for the 180,000-square-foot Perot Museum of Nature & Science at Victory Park have been unveiled for public view. The $185-million project has a fall 2009 groundbreaking and is slated for an early 2013 opening.
The facility, which is being built on just under five acres at 1155 Broom St., is less like a typical museum with Doric columns adorning the front, and more like a floating cube over Victory Park; a cube blending in with the landscape and allowing a great deal of light into the spacious interior. Designed by Pritzker Prize Laureate Thom Mayne and his firm, Morphosis Architects of Los Angeles, the 14-story, 170-foot-tall building contains an acre of rolling roofscape comprised of rock and native drought-resistant grasses, five floors of public space containing 10 exhibition galleries and a children's museum and a multi-media digital cinema that can seat 300 people.

Mayne tells that the design was the culmination of a great deal of input, discussions and "desires of the client group," as he puts it. "We were completely attuned to this particular site, program and client as well as the location," says Mayne, who says the project is his first in Texas. "It's adjacent to the freeway (Woodall Rogers Expressway) and at the very end of a cultural corridor."
Mayne says his goal in the building design was to tie it to the landscape, designed by local firm Talley Associates. Another goal was that of movement and sequences; allowing visitors to move through spaces and 10 different venues, and to view new and exciting things as take their trip. On a more practical note, Mayne comments that the building's vertical design also provides future options when it comes to site expansion.
One happy surprise that came out during the design phase was the 54-foot, continuous-flow escalator in a clear tube extending outside of the building. The escalator takes visitors from the lobby atrium to the top floor, where they are faced with a view of Dallas. "That massive escalator is something that's really powerful," Mayne remarks. "It didn't come as a single move, but bit-by-bit. It was a lot of thoughts and ideas glued together until we realized what we had."

Mayne goes on to say this is the way he rolls as an architect; he doesn't go into a project with preconceived notions or ideas. Rather, he works with the site, the program and listens to clients before setting out things on paper. For him, design is more of a collective process, a "manifestation of dialogue," as he puts it.

The Perot Museum is interesting in that it's a relevant project for the day and age. "These days, nature and science are such relevant topics, with concerns over the environment and sustainability," Mayne remarks. "The living thing and its environment are thought of as singular. It's a terrific time to explore this topic, and the building tries to do that."