A rendering of Dorte Mandrup's proposal
Dorte Mandrup / Martha Schwartz Partners A rendering of Dorte Mandrup's proposal

Bubbling quietly in the heart of Los Angeles' Hancock Park, the La Brea Tar Pits have been around since the Ice Age. But now, they are ready for a makeover. In an effort to reinvent the 12-acre Tar Pit site and museum, the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) invited international architecture firms to submit concept proposals that integrate the museum with its surrounding park while adding increased community access and sustainable infrastructure. After selecting three finalists teams and hosting an ideas incubator in June, NHMLAC have revealed the concept proposals from New York-based firms Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Weiss/Manfredi, and Denmark-based firm Dorte Mandrup.

“After embarking on the process to reimagine La Brea Tar Pits earlier this year, we selected three firms with established expertise in integrating public green space with museum collections to help us see the site with fresh eyes,” said NHMLAC president and director Lori Bettison-Varga in a press release. “They did not disappoint. These three concepts offer us distinct approaches to consider—all of them are deeply thoughtful, and all have responded fully to our stated goals: We want to preserve and enhance community use of Hancock Park while making the collection more visible to the public, showing science in action, and adding to our visitor amenities."

Displays from each firm will be on view at the Tar Pits museum and online until Sept. 15, providing the public with an opportunity to comment on each design. With the help of a carefully selected jury, NHMLAC will then review the concepts and will select a winning firm by the end of December 2019.

Here are the proposals:

Dorte Mandrup / Martha Schwartz Partners
Dorte Mandrup / Martha Schwartz Partners

Dorte Mandrup

“For the residents of Los Angeles, Hancock Park and the Page Museum are nostalgic places that bring back memories,” said Dorte Mandrup-Poulsen, founder and creative director of his epynomous firm, in the release. "We will cherish and build on this, as we open up and extend the park and museum to become one big living laboratory. Our proposal interweaves the park and museum, so the moment you step inside the park you become immersed into the story of the Tar Pits. A visit here should be a journey of curiosity, where senses and imagination are instantly awakened. Our hope is that this will bring visitors much closer to the world of natural science, and in turn heighten their understanding of the past, present and future of our planet.”

Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Diller Scofidio + Renfro

"As an urbanized culture, we are rarely conscious of the geological forces that shape the ground we walk (and drive) on. A new masterplan for the La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum offers a unique opportunity to not only heighten awareness of the natural history held underfoot, but also to engender a sense of responsibility towards the role humans play in shaping the environment they inherit,” Diller Scofidio + Renfro said in a statement. “A revitalized Hancock Park is conceived to be the connective tissue between existing and new institutions, public spaces, and urban infrastructure. We have taken a ‘light touch’ approach for the next evolution of the Page Museum, infilling underutilized spaces and reconfiguring what is already there to create a more dynamic and efficient hybrid structure that is both building and landscape."

WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism

Weiss/Manfredi

“Weiss/Manfredi's proposal, ‘La Brea Loops and Lenses,’ redefines Hancock Park and the Page Museum as one continuous experience,” said founders and principals Marion Weiss, FAIA, and Michael Manfredi, FAIA. “The intertwining loops link all the existing site components, enhancing spaces for community and scientific research. The lenses, as framed views throughout the park and museum, reveal the La Brea collection to visitors, bringing the museum to the park, and the park into the public imagination. We are excited to reimagine La Brea and are committed to amplifying this enduring Los Angeles landmark to serve a vibrant community.”