Hey, Los Angeles, check out your fancy new Natural History Museum!
For weeks we'd been getting these cryptic messages from the Natural History Museum's press people about a monumental new project they're working on. Very hush hush.
Were they cloning dinosaurs in there, or what?
(Anyone who's been to the NHM lately probably noticed the massive construction going on in the front lawn.)
So finally, the big announcement is officially out: they are building a brand new $30 million “urban wilderness experience” on site in Exposition Park. It will be called North Campus and will open in July 2011.
By urban wilderness experience they mean: “living” walls with planters and little cracks for spiders and lizards to live in. An Entrance Plaza where people can relax after arriving at the museum from the Metro Rail line that will stop right outside the museum. A pond. A car park. A bridge whose sweeping lines are designed to echo the ribcage of a fin whale. A 400-seat capacity “Stramphitheater” (stair, ramp, amphitheater) for dinosaur puppet shows, and science movies.
And gardens. Oh, will there ever be gardens.
There are plans for an “Urban Wilderness Garden” of native California plants, a “Pollinator Garden” for hummingbirds to hang out in, a “Home Garden” for people to learn about how to grow edibles in ecologically sustainable ways, an elegant Beaux-Arts “1913 Garden” with mazes, and–my favorite–a “Get Dirty Zone” where people can learn about dirt and how it's made. “It's made by critters!” said archaeologist and project overseer Dr. Karen Wise.
All this is great news for the area. The area surrounding the NHM and the nearby USC campus have had a not-so-great reputation for years now, and the museum has largely dropped off the radar as a tourist destination. Hopefully, this new project will help to turn that around.
Moneywise, $10 of the $30 million is coming from the county, $20 million is coming from private donors.
Oh, they're also going to be moving the iconic Dueling Dinosaurs sculpture so that it's the first thing Metro Rail passengers see when they hop out at the museum stop.
Basically the idea is to turn an ugly concrete landscape into a vibrant, living space. Is that actually possible in Los Angeles? We'll have to see. Plans look good, in any case. Let's see how the execution pans out.
(Currently, this is what the site looks like. The new North Campus will increase the square footage of the museum by 50%.)
These two guys are the architects (of the firm CO Architects). That's a model of the bridge, designed to resemble the ribcage of a fin whale. There will be round glass inserts so light filters down onto the ground below. There will be seashells embedded into the concrete.
And this is a fin whale. It's inside the museum. It makes a deep bellowing sound.
Here are some kids who were brought in to demonstrate the demonstrations. The new North Campus will be a place of learning and kids will be encouraged to do science. Here, one of the museum associates is talking to them about lizards.
And here are the lizards.