- Project Name
- La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
- Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- 522,720 sq. feet
- Shared by
- Madeleine D'Angelo
- Project Status
- On the Boards/In Progress
This project was named an Merit winner in the 70th Annual Progressive Architecture Awards, and was featured in the March 2023 issue of ARCHITECT.
“This sets a powerful precedent for how we can extend the language of the redesign of contemporary cities to engage with ancient and archaic histories ... creating spatial relations with extremely long time horizons.” —Juror DK Osseo-Asare
Los Angeles can often feel like it came into existence no more than 15 minutes ago. But the La Brea Tar Pits, a fossil-filled IUGS Geological Heritage site in Hancock Park, have always been a reminder that the city has a longer history. The 522,720-square-foot master plan by New York–based Weiss/Manfredi connects each of the site’s elements and reimagines them as part of a continuum with lessons for today and the future. Located on Wilshire Boulevard and adjacent to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art expansion, a new, 1-kilometer-long pedestrian path unites the three primary areas of the site—museum, tar pits, and park—into an integrated series of experiences. The 1977 structure housing the site’s existing Page Museum will be renovated and expanded, with its stark, box-like shell recast as a treasure chest or wunderkammer where artifacts offer opportunities for discovery and exploration. The project also creates a memorable glassy pavilion in the park enclosing an exhibition pit.
Project: La Brea Tar Pits & Museum, Los Angeles
Client/Owner: National History Museum of Los Angeles
Architecture and Landscape: WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism. Marion Weiss, FAIA, and Michael A. Manfredi, FAIA (Design Partners); Patrick Armacost and Todd Hoehn (Team Leaders); Andrew Ruggles, Lily Wong, Karen Duan, Andoni Rodriguez Eraso, Lee Lim, Kerry O’Connor, Lindsay Reichart, Michael Steiner, Joseph Vessell, and Eileen Witte (Project Team)
Artist and Naturalist: Mark Dion
Paleobotanist: Dr. Carole Gee
Experiential Design and Film: Karin Fong, Imaginary Forces
Exhibition & Brand Identity: Michael Bierut, Pentagram
Horticulture: Robert Perry
Exhibition Designers: Kossmanndejong
Size: 522,720 square feet
FROM THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY:
Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announced today that WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism has been selected to lead the master planning team to reimagine the uniquely important and world renowned La Brea Tar Pits. The team will work with NHMLAC on a multi-year process of public engagement, master planning, design and construction on the Tar Pits’ 13-acre campus, which encompasses the world’s only active paleontological research site in a major urban area, its asphalt seeps, surrounding parkland, and the George C. Page Museum building.
WEISS/MANFREDI’s ‘Loops and Lenses’ concept developed for the competition creates new connections between the museum and the Park, between science and culture, and envisions the entire site as an unfolding place of discovery. The approach includes a triple mobius that links all existing elements of the park to redefine Hancock Park as a continuously unfolding experience. Their multidisciplinary team includes Los Angeles-based Emmy Award-winning designer Karin Fong of Imaginary Forces; Los Angeles-based horticulturalist Robert Perry; Los Angeles native paleobotanist Dr. Carol Gee; artist and naturalist Mark Dion; and brand and graphics designer Michael Bierut of Pentagram. The team will be augmented by Los Angeles-based consultants, including architect and historic preservation advocate Brenda Levin of Levin & Associates.
“There is truly no place in the world as magical as La Brea Tar Pits,” said design partners Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi. “We and our team are deeply honored and grateful for this once-in-a lifetime opportunity to reveal the multiple identities of the Tar Pits, the Museum, and Hancock Park. We are thrilled to begin work with Dr. Bettison-Varga and NHMLAC to rejuvenate the Tar Pits and the Museum and carry them into the future and into the public imagination.”
The WEISS/MANFREDI team was chosen by NHMLAC through an international search process and competition, in which the Museums chose three finalists based on the overall quality and character of their response to a Request for Information. The other two finalists were Copenhagen-based firm Dorte Mandrup and New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro. In August, the three finalist firms publicly shared their visions for the site’s future. NHMLAC invited public feedback on the proposals and received more than 2,100 survey responses that reflected Angelenos’ appreciation for the culturally rich, beloved site.
“We are excited to move forward with Marion, Michael, and their remarkable team, as we work toward a more integrated experience of the museum and the landscape in Hancock Park while increasing community access, preserving the site’s iconic features and developing a more sustainable infrastructure for the next 50 years,” said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga. “All three teams put forth compelling and creative conceptual approaches, but in the end, there was consensus in the feedback we received from the competition jury and selection committee, NHMLAC staff and board, and the Los Angeles community that WEISS/MANFREDI’s conceptual approach captured the imaginations of a broad cross section of audiences. We look forward to starting our master planning work with them in the new year.”
To assist with their selection, NHMLAC assembled a competition jury of leading figures from the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, design, science, natural history, and the arts. Jurors included Milton Curry, Dean of USC School of Architecture; Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer, City of Los Angeles; Kirk Johnson, Director of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution; Kristin Sakoda, Executive Director, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture; and Barbara Wilks, Founding Principal and Architect, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, LLC.
"There's no site in Los Angeles, and really no site in the world, quite like La Brea Tar Pits," said jury member Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles. "It's a place of deep emotional connection and nostalgia for Angelenos, a community gathering place and a green space in the middle of the dense Miracle Mile, and a world-class location for research, discovery, and exhibition. WEISS/MANFREDI and its collaborators stood out with a concept for the site that is both full of fresh thinking and thoughtfully responsive to those layered existing conditions."