Text by Ian Volner
In the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Thom Mayne, FAIA, may at last have found the ultimate client for his idiosyncratic brand of hyper-Modernism. Devoted to spreading public awareness of the natural world, the museum uses cutting-edge technology and multimedia exhibitions to bring a little excitement to potentially stodgy disciplines like physics, biology, and chemistry. Appropriately, the building created by Mayne’s Santa Monica, Calif.–based firm, Morphosis Architects—a gleaming white cube pierced with irregular apertures and striations—seems like a giant billboard for the future conspicuously perched atop a landscaped bluff just north of downtown Dallas.
The building’s façade is composed of roughly 700 individually molded concrete panels, their ridged contours suggestive of a geological formation; the majority is opaque to provide a black-box environment for the exhibit halls inside, but the southwestern side is punctuated by a slash of a glass-enclosed escalator. Visitors arrive at a lower-level entryway, which is connected to a planted forecourt and topped by a sloping terrace covered in rocks, cacti, and dry grass—a model, in miniature, of the native Texas ecosystem.
Inside, visitors can explore a 300-seat digital movie theater, a museum store, 14 stories of exhibition space that include a children’s museum, and a dedicated space for traveling exhibitions; there are also offices and auxiliary facilities for museum staff. Mayne and company have always been dedicated to a belief that design is a place to try out possible futures, and in this project—devoted to the exploring, inventive spirit of science—Morphosis’ material and tectonic daring seem to speak more clearly than ever before.
Project: Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas, Texas
Client: Hillwood Development (owner’s representative)
Architect: Morphosis Architects, Culver City, Calif. . Thom Mayne, FAIA (design director); Kim Groves (project principal); Brandon Welling (project manager); Arne Emerson (project architect); Aleksander Tamm-Seitz (project designer); Natalia Traverso Caruana, Paul Choi, Kerenza Harris, Sal Hidalgo, Andrea Manning, Aaron Ragan, Scott Severson, Martin Summers, Jennifer Workman (project team); Katsuya Arai, Jesus Banuelos, Andrew Batay-Csorba, Marco Becucci, Chris Bennett, Anne Marie Burke, Amaranta Campos, John Carpenter, Min-Cheng Chang, Emily Cheng, Kyle Coburn, Jon Cummings, Laura Decurgez, Yusef Dennis, Alex Deutschman, Chris Eskew, Alex Fritz, Andrew Gaudette, Mauricio Gomez, Brock Hinze, Yasushi Ishida, Jai Kumaran, Edmund Ming Yip Kwong, Matt Lake, Jeremy Magner, Hugo Martinez, John McAllister, Jason Minor, Borja Muguiro, Sophia Passberger, Anna Protasevich, Kateryna Rogynskya, Scott Smith, Satoru Sugihara, Ben Toam, Elizabeth Wendell, Michelle Young (project assistants); Josh Sprinkling (visualization)
Associate Architect: GFF
Structural Engineer: Datum Engineers
Consulting Structural Engineer: John A. Martin & Associates
M/E/P Engineer: Buro Happold
Civil Engineer: URS Corp.
Landscape Architecture/Site Sustainability: Talley Associates
Sustainability Consultant: GFF
Cost Estimator: Davis Langdon
Façade Consultant: JA Weir Associates
Geotechnical Engineer: Terracon
Lighting Designer: Office for Visual Interaction
Acoustics Consultant: Jaffe Holden
Audiovisual/IT Consultant: WJHW
Code Consultant: Jim W Sealy Architects
Specifications Consultant: Inspec
Vertical Transportation Consultant: Barbre Consulting
Technology and BIM Consultant: Synthesis
Waterproofing Consultant: Apollo BBC
Accessibility Consultant: Access By Design
Security Consultant: Jaffe Holden
Architectural Visualization Consultant: Kilograph
General Contractor: Balfour Beatty Construction
Size: 180,000 square feet
This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.
Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECTS (May 2015):
The new Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Victory Park will create a distinct identity for the Museum, enhance the institution’s prominence in Dallas and enrich the city’s evolving cultural fabric. Designed to engage a broad audience, invigorate young minds, and inspire wonder and curiosity in the daily lives of its visitors, the Museum will cultivate a memorable experience that will persist in the minds of its visitors and that will ultimately broaden individuals’ and society’s understanding of nature and science.
The Museum will strive to achieve the highest standards of sustainability possible for a building of its type. High performance design and incorporation of state of the art technologies will yield a new building that will minimize its impact on the environment. This world class facility will inspire awareness of science through an immersive and interactive environment that actively engages visitors. Rejecting the notion of museum architecture as neutral background for exhibits, the new building itself becomes an active tool for science education. By integrating architecture, nature, and technology, the building demonstrates scientific principles and stimulates curiosity in our natural surroundings.
The new 180,000 square-foot facility is a center for education, exploration, and discovery. It features lively exhibits, vivid contextual displays of the museum’s collections, state-of-the-art technology, multimedia presentations and hands on activities. Standing 14 stories tall, the museum features ten permanent exhibition halls including a children’s museum, an outdoor play space/courtyard, a traveling gallery that will host world-class exhibitions, and a ground level workshop exhibit surrounded by large windows, allowing the public to view activities.
The facility includes an expansive, glass enclosed lobby connected to an outdoor terrace, a multi-media digital cinema with seating for 300, a retail store and offices for museum staff. Attached to the facility is an acre of roofscape comprised of native, drought resistant grasses that reflect Texas’ indigenous landscape, a large shady grove of East Texas native canopy trees, and an assortment of native flowering plants surrounding the roof deck terrace and museum lobby. The skin of the museum, designed to emulate a geologic formation, includes 700 pre-cast, custom molded concrete sections. The building features a 54-foot continuous-flow escalator contained in a 150-foot glass enclosed tube. This glass-enclosed escalator extends outside the building and provides unobstructed views of the museum and the city skyline. A large, urban plaza wrapped around the side of the facility accommodates cafe tables, seating, and three water features available for gatherings and public events.