Last night, the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) unveiled new designs for La Brea Tar Pits—an archaeological site, museum, and active laboratory that keeps the world’s most complete records of life during the ice age. A community forum at the El Rey Theatre debuted proposals from three competing architecture firms: Dorte Mandrup, Weiss Manfredi, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
The aging museum hasn't been touched since it was built over 40 years ago, and it looks forward to an update befitting its stature in the scientific world—and one that engages the greater Los Angeles area.
"We want to preserve and enhance community use of Hancock Park while making the collection more visible to the public, showing science in action, and adding to our visitor amenities," says NHMLAC President and Director Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga. The architecture firms honed in on community access, the preservation of the site's features, and sustainable infrastructure. Have a look below.
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Copenhagen-based Dorte Mandrup envision the park as one big living laboratory, where visitors can immerse themselves in the story of the Tar Pits. "A visit here should be a journey of curiosity, where sense and imagination are instantly awakened," says the firm's founder and creative director Dorte Mandrup-Poulsen. The design brings attendees closer to the world of natural science, and the firm hopes it will encourage attendees to make new, lasting memories.
New York—based Weiss Manfredi's strengths lie at the intersection of architecture and landscape design. Their work, titled La Brea Loops and Lenses, is an infinity-loop pathway that guides visitors through the park, making for one continuous, unbroken experience. Visitors can view framed vignettes of the park from multiple angles as they move along the trail.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Diller Scofidio + Renfro's proposal highlights the museum's natural history elements, enhancing visitors' awareness of their role in the living environment. "A revitalized Hancock Park is conceived to be the connective tissue between existing and new institutions, public spaces, and urban infrastructure," they say.
For those unable to attend last night's forum, the architects’ models, renderings, and drawings are now on display at the Tar Pits and until September 15th. Additional digital versions can be viewed here, and feedback is encouraged. Experts in architecture, landscape design, science, and natural history will help NHMLAC make the final call for the future of the museum.