Thursday, February 2, 2012
Photos: Inside of Perot Museum is starkly different than outside
The building made of concrete is somehow transparent.
Comparing the airy inside of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science with the monolothic outside is light and day. During a first look at the inside of the not-yet-finished building, we found pockets of skylights and slivers of windows that give the interior a whole new vibrance not accessible from the highway.
The 180,000 square foot building is imposing, with concrete siding and slits of ominous windows. But architect Thom Mayne has made a smart play on light and dark by making the building's interior surprisingly warm.
“Hopefully, this building is not about ... liking or disliking, it's about coming to understand,” said Mayne.
Visitors approach the $185 million structure through a curved sidewalk, with a bowl-shaped section of concrete extending above, then revealing the Dallas skyline behind it. The experience envelops visitors into this gray, mod piece of architecture that at the same time champions nature, with a landscaped roof and water features in the entry plaza.
The interior of the building is a series of peekaboo light installations, such as the curvy skylights in the ceiling of the basement and the glass-enclosed elevator shaft. Visitors wind through an entry way and don't actually enter the exhibit area until they've walked hundreds of feet through the museum's corridor. The exhibit area officially begins at the bottom of the escalator, which moves up to the fourth floor and juts out the side of the building in one of the design's most unique outward features.
Exhibits in the museum will include the gems and minerals hall, sports hall, engineering and innovation hall, a journey through the solar system, paleontology wing, and more. Level 4 will feature a huge, 80-foot dinosaur made of resin, re-created in 3D to represent a dinosaur found in Big Bend National Park. Some actual dinosaur bones will also be in the exhibit.
The paleontology wing features considerably fewer windows than the common areas of the museum, again showing the contrasts they've made between light and dark. The idea is to “come into these spaces and get lost for a little bit,” said project manager and tour guide Brandon Welling, who works for the Los Angeles architecture firm Morphosis. Then visitors will head back to the glass elevators, a lighted space which provides a certain amount of “cleansing,” to reorient visitors as they move to the next exhibition.
If the transitions sound a little idealistic, they aren't. Even on a tour with construction crews buzzing on drills and very little science stuff to actually look at, the spaces took on personalities, each one a little different depending on the wing.
Staffers from the museum could hardly contain their delight when explaining some of the exhibitions, which are designed to entertain people of all ages. In a section where a futuristic automobile will show ways to power a vehicle with substances other than gasoline, exhibit designer Paul Bernhard said, “The kids that are growing up today might be the ones that finally make it work.” It already felt like the location of several future engineers' “aha” moments.
The museum will be finished in early 2013.
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