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Studio Gang unveil cave design for American Museum of Natural History's US$325m expansion

New York’s American Museum of Natural History has revealed new plans by Studio Gang for its US$325m (€298.7m, £211.1m), six-storey addition, intended to expand the institution’s role for scientific research and education.

The cave-like design by Jeanne Gang for the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation, will combine and streamline the various activities at the museum, helping with circulation problems by “conjuring spaces created by forces of nature”, such as canyons and glacial forms, to create new through paths to the museum’s vast campus. The reinforced concrete design – radically different from the rest of the museum’s traditional brick aesthetic – is meant to send a message that the development is for a new era, also “fostering a sense of connectivity and discovery,” according to the architect.

Set to open in time for the museum’s 150th anniversary at the end of 2019, the plans are still subject to a public approval process, including evaluation by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. There has been some opposition to the impinging of Theodore Roosevelt Park, which sits on the back area of the museum campus where the development is planned. The museum has responded to these concerns however, factoring in space created from the demolition of three of its existing buildings to leave more green space than previously anticipated.

The design by Gang covers 218,000sq ft (20,250sq m) of space, with around 11,600sq ft (1,000sq m) of parkland taken up and the remainder incorporated into the museum’s existing footprint. The addition will feature permanent exhibitions for visitors showcasing scientific topics, as well as labs and theatres for scientific presentations and teaching. The new space will also include the Invisible Worlds Theater, which will use powerful imaging technology to reveal minute details of things as small as a grain of sand.

The museum is still seeking funding for the development – the most significant for the institution since the Hayden Planetarium building was redeveloped in 2000 – with more than half of its US$325m goal reached, including US$44.3m (€40.7m, £28.8m) in city funding and US$5m (€4.5m, £3.3m) in state funding. The museum’s namesake Richard Gilder – a longtime donor to the museum and stockbroker – has also contributed US$50m (€40.2m, £32m) towards the expansion.

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New York’s American Museum of Natural History has revealed new plans by Studio Gang for its US$325m (€298.7m, £211.1m), six-storey addition, intended to expand the institution’s role for scientific research and education. The cave-like design by Jeanne Gang for the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation, will combine and streamline the various activities at the museum, helping with circulation problems by “conjuring spaces created by forces of nature”,
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The reinforced concrete design is radically different from the rest of the museum’s traditional brick aesthetic
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