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The Cleveland Museum of Natural History raises nearly $39 million and plans expansion start in 2016

Posted March 07, 2014 in Articles

Author: Steven Litt

Now it’s another museum’s turn for a big makeover.

Just a few months after the Cleveland Museum of Art finished an eight-year expansion and renovation, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has announced it will finalize architectural plans for a similar physical transformation and break ground in 2016.

The museum has also announced that it has raised nearly $39 million in cash and pledges toward the $125 million project since it began a capital campaign 16 months ago.

“There’s good momentum going with the project,” Evalyn Gates, the museum’s director since 2010, said Tuesday in an interview. “The response continues to be one of excitement and enthusiasm for what we’re doing. This is a beloved institution and it is universally recognized. It’s time to bring our facilities up to the level that our collection and research demand.”

Working with a design team headed by Fentress Architects of Denver, Col., the museum is aiming for an environmentally sustainable expansion and renovation that transforms the institution’s gloomy, outdated appearance.

And, like the art museum, the natural history museum will demolish about half of its existing, 226,000-square-foot complex and then add new construction.

Sears Hall, built in the 1970s to house the museum’s collection of dinosaurs and prehistoric life, will be removed, along with Kirtland Hall, built in the late 1950s to house what is now called the human ecology collection.

On Tuesday, the museum held a panel discussion to introduce members of its newly assembled design team to about 200 supporters. But Gates emphasized that it was too soon to show any specific designs for the museum’s future.

Instead, she said it was likely that a previous conceptual design by the Fentress firm, unveiled in late 2012, would likely evolve in a process that will involve community participation and feedback.

“Exactly what it looks like and how much of the [building] mass is in different places - that’s what we’re working out,” she said in an interview before the panel discussion.

She said the museum aims to transform its architecturally drab appearance on Wade Oval in University Circle, and its equally uninspiring rear facades facing the traffic circle at East 105th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

“We want a new presence that invites visitors into the building,” she said. “We want to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces to invite people to reconnect with nature through the exhibits themselves.

And, yes, there will be parking. The museum plans to remove a surface parking lot along Wade Oval Drive and replace it with a garage with approximately 300 spaces. Visitors will be able to walk under cover directly into the museum.

The museum planned an expansion and renovation with Fentress earlier in the 2000s, but held off when the recession hit in 2008.

Gates, a particle physicist who previously worked as assistant director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, decided when she came to Cleveland that the previous plans for the natural history museum’s expansion weren’t bold enough.

Original Article: http://www.cleveland.com/architecture/index.ssf/2014/03/the_cleveland_museum_of_natura_1.html

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