Natural History Museum of Utah
The site, located in the foothills of the Wasatch Range, occupies a prominent place at the edge of the City and the University of Utah campus.
The Museum rests on a series of terraces that step up the hill
and lay along the contours of the site with minimal disruption to
the adjacent natural landscape; its powerful jagged profile
references the mountains beyond.
The building is conceived as an abstract extension and transformation of the land: its formal and material qualities derive from the region's natural landscape of rock, soil, minerals and vegetation. Further reinforcing the essential continuity of nature and human experience is the landscape design strategy, which, in blurring the distinction between natural vegetation and topography and intentional interventions, places humans at the nexus of environmental stewardship.
The site offers breathtaking views of the Great Salt Lake, the Oquirrhs mountain range, Kennecott copper mines, Mount Olympus and Salt Lake City.
/Todd Schliemann, Design Partner
The influence of Utah's cultural landscape, the specific impact of the site and environmental imperatives and the influence of the Museum's institutional mission became the basis for the creation of a definitive architectural identity.
A voluminous central public space - the Canyon - divides the
building programmatically into an empirical (north) wing and an
interpretive (south) wing and provides access to both. Bridges and
vertical circulation organize the visitor sequence; views south
across the basin expands the experience; shafts of sunlight
penetrate the apex, suffusing the space with natural light; and a
grand vertical scale uplifts and inspires.
Spaces in the north wing support formal scientific exploration
and an objective understanding of our world; these include research
laboratories, conservation labs, collection storage and
administration. The south wing houses exhibits, whose narratives
interpret the Museum's extraordinary collections and guide the
public through an exploration of the delicate balance of life on
earth and its natural history.
The material quality of the building's exterior roots it in the landscape by recalling Utah's geological and mineralogical history and expressing the design as natural form. At its base, board-formed concrete makes the transition from the earth to the manmade. Copper panels constitute the skin of the building, extending from the building's volume at angles that reference the geophysical processes that created the metal. Accent panels of copper-zinc alloy enhance the subtle variegation of the copper's natural patina. The standing seam copper facade is articulated in horizontal bands of various heights to emulate geological stratification on the building skin.
The building provides much-needed space to preserve, study and
interpret the Museum's extraordinary collection of artifacts, and
its exhibits explore and articulate natural history and the
delicate balance of life on earth. The building houses advanced
research facilities, supporting both undergraduate and graduate
education at the University of Utah.
Intended to play a seminal role in enhancing the public's understanding of the earth's resources and systems as well as be a model for responsible and environmentally sensitive development, the Museum is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification.
Facts about Natural History Museum of Utah
Gross building area: 163,000 ft2
Todd Schliemann FAIA
Don Weinreich AIA, LEED AP
Thomas Wong AIA, Alex O'Briant AIA
John Majewski AIA, Megan Miller AIA, LEED AP
Interiors Charmian Place: Katharine Huber AIA
Joshua Frankel AIA
Jarrett Pelletier AIA
Architect of Record:
David Brems FAIA, LEED AP
John Branson AIA, LEED AP
Valerie Nagasawa AIA
Stephanie DeMott IIDA
Stacy Butcher LEED AP
Clio Miller AIA
Jesse Allen AIA LEED AP
Bill Cordray AIA
Jennifer Still AIA
Eduardo De Roda
Last updated: December 19, 2013