Gilder Center Project Update
As you may know, the American Museum of Natural History was created 150 years ago by New Yorkers who believed that this City needed a great museum to advance scientific research and to serve as a center of learning for school children and visitors. Those goals are still at the heart of our mission—and are even more crucial today.
I’m Michael Novacek, Senior Vice President and Provost of Science at the Museum, and I oversee the Museum’s scientific research and exhibitions. I am reaching out to you today to share the tremendous progress that we are making on the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, the new building planned for the west side of our campus, and to share more about why this project is such an important part of the Museum’s service to New York and beyond:
- Modern educational facilities for hundreds of thousands of school children: The Gilder Center’s 13 new or renovated classrooms will offer the latest technology and scientific instrumentation for students and teachers throughout the five boroughs.
- Programming for thousands of New York State teachers: The Gilder Center will support the Museum’s Master of Arts in Teaching program, which educates one-third of all newly-certified New York State teachers in Earth science, and thousands of local science teachers will use the new halls and classrooms for professional development and student learning programs.
- Exhibition halls for visitors and school groups: A new state-of-the-art theater exploring new worlds of scientific discovery, as well as galleries that highlight vital scientific topics—such as insects’ role in our food supply, in human health, and as indicators of climate change—will bring important new science to the public.
- A view into the scientific collections for the public: The Collections Core will hold millions of specimens from the Museum’s research collections — which form an irreplaceable record of life on Earth — in new, state-of the art facilities, to offer visitors a close look at the essential factual evidence that underpins scientific research by scientists and scholars at the Museum and from around the world.
You may have heard about a lawsuit challenging the project. I’d like to correct mischaracterizations that have been raised with some important facts:
- The Museum is passionate about Theodore Roosevelt Park and is committed to improving it. The Museum has worked with Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Park since 2002 to support the Park and recently announced a commitment of $100,000 annually for the next 10 years for the Park’s maintenance. Together with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) and Park Working Group, the Museum developed new designs with more benches and more green space for passive recreational uses. The Parks Department found that these improvements would enhance the adjacent area of the Park by increasing the amount of publicly accessible open space and by providing additional seating and gathering areas.
- At every turn, the Museum has worked to minimize the impact on the Park. To reduce the project’s overall footprint, the Museum revised the project’s plans to keep the extension of its footprint to only .25 acre beyond what it is today in the 17.58-acre park. While seven trees will be removed following appropriate court resolution, 22 new trees (including six canopy trees) will be planted once construction is completed.
- The Museum received regulatory approval for the project after an extensive review process.Several City agencies, including NYC Parks and the Landmarks Preservation Commission, approved the project after a multi-year review process that included numerous opportunities for public comment.
- There is nothing out of the ordinary about the environmental conditions of Theodore Roosevelt Park. The results of the site investigations were typical of other construction sites in New York City. No evidence was found of an onsite chemical release, and the City’s expert agencies concluded that there are “no known risks with respect to hazardous materials that cannot be controlled through the use of the measures commonly used at construction sites throughout New York City.” This conclusion is corroborated by the fact that prior construction in the Park has never yielded any such concerns—including as recently as the Rose Center project. That project included work in parkland not previously occupied by the Hayden Planetarium and on the same site as the Gilder Center, for the reconfiguration of the Museum’s service yard, the construction of the Weston Pavilion, and improvements in the north and west parts of the Park.
In short, this is an important civic project that is in the public interest, which is why it has the support of public officials, without exception, and of Manhattan Community Board 7 and civic groups such as New Yorkers for Parks and Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Park.
I hope you find this update helpful. If you have any questions, please call 212-769-5246 or email email@example.com.
Michael J. Novacek, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President and Provost of Science
Curator and Professor of Paleontology
American Museum of Natural History
Gilder Center Project Update
On Friday, November 2, the Museum won an important victory when an Appellate Court judge considerably limited the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) imposed on the Gilder Center project, allowing work to proceed today, Monday, November 5.
David Paget (Sive, Paget & Riesel, P.C.), attorney for the American Museum of Natural History, issued the following statement on Friday, November 2:
“Today the American Museum of Natural History won a significant victory that will allow work to proceed immediately on the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation. Interior work and other necessary exterior work will begin Monday. For the time being, the Museum will not proceed with the removal of 7 trees pending determination of the overall merits of the case, on which we fully expect to prevail. We further expect the Gilder Center will move ahead as proposed, because both the authoritative legal precedent (from the highest court of New York State, as well as other court decisions) and the civic purposes of the project are clear. The City and the Museum have relied on and acted consistently in accordance with the more than 140-year-old New York State legislation, authorizing use of the Park for the Museum, and lease, and a full, transparent, and open engagement with the public, including hundreds of meetings, public hearings, and town halls. This project continues the Museum’s steadfast commitment to improve Theodore Roosevelt Park and the surrounding neighborhood, while also advancing its scientific and educational mission.”
Gilder Center Project Update
The 80th Street park path was completed and opened for use on September 25, and the installation of the construction site fence has begun. There are directional signs in the Park indicating park paths as well as signage informing Museum visitors to enter via the Rose Center for Earth and Space entrance on 81st Street.
The installation of the construction site fence is in progress and, as mentioned in the August 30 update, will be followed by the removal of the pedestrian islands at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue to allow for the creation of temporary protected bike and pedestrian paths in the curb lane. This work will begin as early as Thursday, October 4, and it will include the closure of the crosswalks at 79th Street. Pedestrians will still be able to use Columbus Avenue but will need to cross at 78th Street or 80th Street. The bicycle lane will remain open.
After the pedestrian islands are removed, the bike and pedestrian paths on the east side of Columbus Avenue will be shifted to run around the site fence. The pedestrian islands will be restored, and the 79th Street crosswalks will be reopened, once the Gilder Center is completed.
The Sunday 79th Street Greenmarket on Columbus Avenue will remain open, but beginning October 7 the farmers who usually set up north of 79th Street will move around the corner to 77th Street. The Museum is coordinating with NYC Department of Transportation, NYC Parks, and GrowNYC, which runs the greenmarket, on this transition. For more information, please check GrowNYC’s website.
Gilder Center Project Update
The fountains and lower portion of the Ross Terrace will reopen on Saturday, following the placement of trailers on the upper terrace. Visitors can access the Ross Terrace by using the staircase from Theodore Roosevelt Park or by entering the Rose Center at 81st Street and following signs to the second floor, where a new ADA-compliant entry leads to the Terrace from the Scales of the Universe walk.
Earlier this month the Museum's Columbus Avenue entrance (at 79th Street) was closed for interior demolition. There are directional signs in the Park informing visitors to enter the Museum from 81st Street.
There are ongoing preparations for the installation of the construction site fence. In the first two weeks of September, work is expected to begin on the temporary park access path near 80th Street. Tree protection will also be installed over the next several weeks, based on consultation with the New York City Parks Department. Once the path is installed and the tree protection is installed, the installation of the site fence will begin. Materials for this work, and for the site fence, will be delivered and staged in the park. With installation of the site fence, the pedestrian islands at 79th Street will be removed to allow for temporary protected pedestrian and bicycle paths around the site fence. This work is expected to take approximately 4-6 weeks following the installation of the temporary park path.
Tree removal and removal and storage of the landmarked stone piers at the West 79th Street entrance to the Park will begin after the site fence is installed. New trees will be planted and the piers will be reinstalled at the 79th Street entrance as part of the Park improvements the Museum will be making toward the end of the construction period.
Gilder Center Project Update
The lower terrace and fountains were closed August 6 and will remain closed for approximately three weeks to allow for the installation of trailers on the upper terrace. The trailers, which will temporarily house the Museum's Ichthyology Department, will be lifted by crane from the horseshoe driveway at the Museum's parking garage and onto the terrace (weather permitting). The crane will be onsite on August 16, with work going on overnight from approximately 6 pm until approximately 6 am on August 17. Because of its proximity to the crane, the Bull Moose Dog run will be closed while the crane operation is taking place (starting at approximately 8 pm) and will open at the regularly scheduled time (6 am) the next morning.
In mid-August the Museum will be closing the Weston Pavilion, our Columbus Avenue entrance, and beginning demolition inside that building.
The Museum will begin installing the site fence around the construction area in late August/early September. Before the site fence installation can begin, a temporary park path will be created at Columbus Avenue near 80th Street, to maintain continued access to Theodore Roosevelt Park and the Bull Moose Dog Run during construction. Pedestrian and bicycle circulation on Columbus Avenue will be maintained. The bike lane will be shifted west to accommodate the creation of a pedestrian walkway adjacent to the curb. Signs and barriers will be installed for the safety of the public passing through this area. The vehicular lanes of traffic will remain as they are.
In the next few weeks, arborists will be working with the NYC Parks Department to survey the park and to identify the trees that will require protection during construction. NYC Parks Department tree protection measures, including plywood enclosures as needed, will be placed around the protected trees. Other vegetation, fencing, and park furniture will be cleared from the construction area. Tree removal and removal and storage of the landmarked stone piers at the West 79th Street entrance to the Park will begin after the site fence is installed. New trees will be planted and the piers will be reinstalled at the 79th Street entrance as part of the Park improvements the Museum will be making toward the end of the construction period.
Gilder Center Project Update
Earlier this month, the Museum and Community Board 7 convened the first meeting of the Gilder Center Construction Task Force, which includes representatives from neighborhood groups. The Task Force will meet on a monthly basis to discuss construction-related issues. Zac Campbell remains the main contact for any Gilder Center construction-related questions or concerns from the neighborhood. You can reach him at 212-769-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, July 19, after the Museum closes, Santiago Calatrava’s New York Times Capsule sculpture will be relocated. The plan to relocate the Times Capsule was approved by Community Board 7’s Parks and Environment committee in June, and by Community Board 7’s Full Board and the New York City Public Design Commission earlier this month. The Times Capsule, currently located in Theodore Roosevelt Park near Columbus Avenue and 79th Street, will be removed and temporarily stored before its reinstallation in its new location in the park along the 81st Street side of the Museum, near the entrance to the Rose Center for Earth and Space.
Over the past few months, three street trees and more than 90 shrubs have been relocated within Theodore Roosevelt Park. Arborists are currently implementing measures to help the trees recover from the transplant process and adjust to their new location.
The lower terrace and fountains, which reopened in June after a brief closure, are scheduled to be closed on or around August 6 for approximately three weeks to allow for the installation of trailers on the upper terrace. The trailers, which will temporarily house the Museum’s Ichthyology Department, will be lifted by crane from the horseshoe driveway at the Museum’s parking garage and onto the terrace. The crane will be onsite to lift the trailers within a single 48-hour time period during the terrace closure. All crane work will occur at night, and we will be sharing additional details as we get closer to the work.
Separately from the Gilder Center project, to accommodate work for another project, one of the windows of the Museum’s façade along Columbus Avenue near 78th Street (next to the Museum’s service drive) will be converted into a temporary passageway, and a second temporary passageway will be created at the northern end of that same building (facing north into Theodore Roosevelt Park).
Gilder Center Project Update
Following a short closure due to Gilder Center preparatory work, the lower portion of the Arthur Ross Terrace reopened this week, and the fountains are now on.
The upper terrace will remain closed for the duration of the Gilder Center project, and the lower terrace will close temporarily later this summer to allow for the placement of trailers on the upper terrace.
Preparatory Activities Continue
Preparatory work for the Gilder Center project continues this month. Bartlett Tree Experts, advised by NYC Parks, will be relocating some of the shrubbery and plantings, as well as 3 street trees, to other locations within Theodore Roosevelt Park.
Preparatory work will also begin on the Ross Terrace. Prior to constructing the Gilder Center, some Museum functions will need to be relocated into temporary trailers that will be placed on a portion of the Terrace (the ‘upper terrace,’ where the tables and chairs are currently located).
To prepare this area, the Ross Terrace will be closed for approximately two to three weeks beginning June 4; the temporary trailers will not be placed until a later date. During this time, the pavers on the upper terrace will be removed and temporary fencing will be installed. This work will be done during the day and is not expected to be noisy. While the upper terrace will remain closed for the duration of the Gilder Center construction, the ‘lower terrace’ (the east-west path with benches) and fountains will reopen once this work on the upper terrace is completed.
Museum Advances Design and Begins Preparatory Activities
The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) and the Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC) approved recent refinements to the design for the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, and preparatory work is underway on the 230,000-square-foot project, which will link advanced education and exhibition spaces with the Museum’s scientific facilities and collections.
Design refinements include an adjustment to the height of the parapet adjacent to the Museum’s southern-most building on Columbus Avenue, which will be 8 feet lower, for a more fluid connection at roof level; a connection between the two sides of the new Columbus Avenue entrance via an arching element; the separation of the roof skylight into a series of smaller skylights that allow for the roof on each side to be connected between the skylights and retain the sustainability benefits of a skylight system; and the reduction of bulk in the northeast side of the building, visible from the Ross Terrace, with the central window set back into the building. The unifying material for the northeast side of the building will be brick rather than copper. In addition, Studio Gang has made an interior enhancement to improve east-west circulation with a more centrally located staircase in the central exhibition hall, leading to a second-floor landing. Please see updated renderings in the About the Project section of the Gilder Center website.
The NYC Parks approval letter is available for public review at http://nyc.gov/parks/amnh-gilder.
If you have any questions, please call 212-769-5246 or email GilderCenter@amnh.org.
NYC Parks Issues Statement of Findings and Approves Gilder Center Project
Today the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) approved the Museum’s plans for the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, following completion of the environmental review process and issuance of its Statement of Findings. This approval allows the Museum to proceed with its plans to build the 245,000-square-foot project that will reveal current science to visitors of all ages through cutting-edge exhibitions and innovative educational programming.
The Statement of Findings and the approval letter are available for public review at http://nyc.gov/parks/amnh-gilder and at the following locations:
NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks)
The Arsenal in Central Park (contact Owen Wells, below)
St. Agnes Library (444 Amsterdam Avenue)
NYC Parks Issues Final EIS
On November 15, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) issued the final Gilder Center Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS is available for public review at http://nyc.gov/parks/amnh-gilder and at the following locations:
NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks)
The Arsenal in Central Park (contact Owen Wells, below)
St. Agnes Library (444 Amsterdam Avenue)
NYC Parks Issues Draft EIS, Sets Public Hearing for June 15
On May 18, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation issued the draft Gilder Center Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The draft EIS is available for public review at http://nyc.gov/parks/amnh-gilder or at the following locations: NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks), The Arsenal in Central Park (contact Owen Wells, below); and St. Agnes Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue.
NYC Parks will hold a public hearing on the draft EIS for the Gilder Center on Thursday, June 15, at 6:00 pm at the American Museum of Natural History. Enter at Weston Pavilion entrance, Columbus Avenue and West 79th Street, New York, NY 10024, and proceed to the LeFrak Theater.
Written comments will also be accepted by NYC Parks until 5:00 pm on June 26, 2017, addressed to the following address, fax number, or email address:
Contact person: Owen Wells, Director of Environmental Review
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
The Arsenal, Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue, Room 401
New York, NY 10065
More Details About Exhibits, Programs for New Gilder Center Announced
On January 11, 2017, the Museum unveiled developing details about the new spaces, programs, and exhibits that will be housed in the proposed Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation. The project will house resources for education, exhibition, and research, and reveal modern science to visitors of all ages.
An Insectarium on the first floor will introduce visitors to some of the most abundant and diverse animals in the world through specimens from the Museum’s collections alongside live insects, scientific tools, and digital displays. And above the Insectarium, visitors will be able to encounter live butterflies from around the world in the Butterfly Vivarium, one of the Museum’s most popular seasonal exhibits, now a year-round living exhibition.
A multi-story, glass-walled Collections Core will house 3.9 million specimens and artifacts from the Museum’s incomparable collections, while the immersive Invisible Worlds Theater will help visitors visualize data and concepts that don’t lend themselves to traditional exhibition—nothing will be too fast, too slow, too small, or too deep in time to be explored in this new space.
In addition, the Gilder Center project will include next-generation classrooms for different age groups in dedicated learning zones. These will include classrooms in a Family Learning Zone, a Middle School Learning Zone that will invite in New York City schools without laboratory facilities to attend “research field trips," a High School Learning Zone, and a Teacher Professional Development Zone.
Designed by Studio Gang Architects under the leadership of Jeanne Gang and featuring exhibit design by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, the facility is expected to open in 2020, after the conclusion of the Museum’s 150th anniversary celebration.
“By showcasing the frontiers of research in ways that align with how people learn today, the Gilder Center will empower our visitors to directly engage with 21st-century science and with the larger world around them, while offering inspiring new spaces and opportunities for share learning, discovery, and community,” says Museum President Ellen V. Futter.
Landmarks Preservation Commission Approves Gilder Center Design
At a public hearing on October 11, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) unanimously approved the Gilder Center application, commending the proposed design as a "stunning piece of architecture."
"It's going to be a wonderful addition to one of the best institutions in the world," said LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan.
"The Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation is designed to enhance the public understanding of science by letting all visitors share in the excitement of discovery," said Museum President Ellen V. Futter.
"The Museum has been working with the architect to make sure the project respects the existing Museum campus and its location in a landmark district and in a public park. Today's hearing is an important step in the approvals process, and we appreciate the careful consideration of the Landmarks Preservation Commission."
Manhattan Community Board 7 Approves Designs for Gilder Center and Theodore Roosevelt Park
Manhattan Community Board 7 voted on Wednesday, October 5, by an overwhelming majority to approve the architectural design for the American Museum of Natural History's proposed Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation and the landscape design for a section of the adjacent Theodore Roosevelt Park, located east of Columbus Avenue between 79th and 81st Streets.
Before the two separate resolutions were presented for a vote by the full Community Board, they were discussed and approved on a near-unanimous basis on September 20 at a joint meeting of the Board's Preservation and Park and Environment Committees. Community Board 7's deliberations are part of the process for seeking approval for the designs from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The architectural design for the proposed building is by Jeanne Gang, principal and founder of Studio Gang Architects. The renovated landscape design for Theodore Roosevelt Park is by Reed Hilderbrand.
"The Museum is deeply grateful for the careful and extensive review that Community Board 7 has given our proposal," said Museum President Ellen V. Futter. "Community input has played an important role in this project, and we are delighted that the Community Board, along with numerous neighborhood organizations, has offered this strong endorsement."
Among the groups that support of the project – some of whose members spoke at the Board meeting—are Friends of Roosevelt Park, Park West 77th street, Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District, Theodore Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, West 80th Street Block Association, American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter, New Yorkers for Parks, and Green Market/Grow NYC.
List of Anticipated Public Sessions and Hearings (LPC/CEQR)
AMNH: Public Information Session re: Landmarks Application
Sep. 13, 2016
CB7: Joint Preservation/Parks Committee Meeting
Sep. 20, 2016
CB7: Vote on Landmarks Application
Oct. 5, 2016
LPC: Public Hearing on Landmarks Application
Oct. 11, 2016
2017 [dates to be determined]
CB7: Public Hearing on Draft Environmental Impact Statement
PARKS: Public Hearing on Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Based on Results of Studies, Museum Will Conserve Two Notable Trees
After consultation with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks), the American Museum of Natural History and Park Working Group today announce that as part of ongoing planning and design for the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, the Museum is developing plans to protect and conserve two notable trees, an English elm and a Pin oak, located in Theodore Roosevelt Park, near the Museum's Columbus Avenue entrance at 79th Street. Conserving these two trees reduces the number of trees removed due to construction from nine to seven.
The conclusion that it is possible to preserve the two trees is based on the results of two analyses: a general engineering study of the proposed service drive that shows, among other things, that the drive could be designed to serve its essential function without requiring the removal of the English elm and the Pin oak; and an assessment from Bartlett Tree Experts of the feasibility of protecting the long-term health and survival of the trees—during and after construction—and their recommendations for doing so. Based upon this information, the Museum is developing a design for the Gilder Center and surrounding parkland that conserves and incorporates the two trees.
"Saving these trees is the most recent demonstration of the Museum's efforts to be a thoughtful community partner. I am thrilled that these two important trees will remain and that the Museum continues to take steps to do all it can to address community issues while maintaining the important mission of this Center," said Helen Rosenthal, New York City Council Member, District 6, Upper West Side of Manhattan.
In developing their recommendations, Bartlett Tree Experts considered a range of factors including the overall health of the trees, their ability to withstand severe storms, and the likelihood that they would survive the construction process in good condition. Plans call for the Museum to plant more trees after construction than were removed during the project. The exact number will be determined as part of the park design process.
The Park Working Group is co-chaired by the Museum and Friends of Roosevelt Park, and its members include representatives from the offices of: Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Manhattan Community Board 7, the West 77th Street Block Association, Theodore Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, the Defenders of Teddy Roosevelt Park, and the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District.
Start of Environmental Review Process with Scoping Session on April 6, 2016
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, as lead agency, will conduct a City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) public scoping meeting at the Museum on April 6, 2016.
The Draft Scope of Work for the Gilder Center EIS is available for public review at http://nyc.gov/parks/amnh-gilder or at the following locations: NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, The Arsenal in Central Park (contact Owen Wells, below); and St. Agnes Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue.
DPR will hold the Public Scoping Meeting on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. at the American Museum of Natural History, LeFrak Theater. Enter at Weston Pavilion entrance, Columbus Avenue and West 79th Street, New York, New York 10024.
Written comments will also be accepted by DPR until 5 pm on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, addressed to the following address, fax number, or email address:
Contact person: Owen Wells, Director of Environmental Review
New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
The Arsenal, Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue, Room 401
New York, New York 10065
Informational Meeting on November 12, 2015
Please join us at the Museum for an informational meeting about the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation on Thursday, November 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
The meeting will feature a presentation by architect Jeanne Gang on the recently announced conceptual design.
Please enter at 77th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue.
RSVP by calling 212-769-5246 or by email to GilderCenter@amnh.org.
Download the meeting flyer here:
Press Release: Museum Announces Conceptual Design for Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation
The Board of Trustees of the American Museum of Natural History today endorsed the conceptual design for the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, a new building that will invite visitors to experience the Museum not only as a place of public exhibitions but as an active scientific and educational institution. In addition, the Board authorized proceeding to schematic design.
Designed by architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects and set into the Columbus Avenue side of the Museum complex at 79th Street, the Gilder Center is the embodiment of the Museum's increasingly integrated mission of science, education, and exhibition. At a time of urgent need for better public understanding of science and for greater access to science education, the Gilder Center will offer visitors, including the general public and school groups, new ways to learn about science and to share in the excitement of discovery. To ensure that the next generation has the skills and imagination for scientific innovation, the Gilder Center will provide interdisciplinary learning spaces that place STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and other educational experiences in the context of world-class scientific research and collections.
The conceptual design for the Gilder Center is consistent with longstanding but previously unrealized aspects of the Museum's 1872 master plan, while reflecting a contemporary architectural approach that is responsive to the Museum's mission and to the current uses and character of the surrounding Theodore Roosevelt Park and neighborhood.
"The Gilder Center embraces the Museum's integrated mission and growing role in scientific research and education and its enhanced capacity to make its extensive resources even more fully accessible to the public," said Museum President Ellen V. Futter. "It will connect scientific facilities and collections to innovative exhibition and learning spaces featuring the latest digital and technological tools. Jeanne Gang's thrilling design facilitates a new kind of fluid, cross-disciplinary journey through the natural world while respecting the Museum's park setting."
In developing the architectural concept for the new Center, Jeanne Gang worked from the inside out. She saw an opportunity to reclaim the physical heart of the Museum and to complete connections between and among existing Museum galleries and new space, leading to a conceptual design that includes links to 10 Museum buildings through 30 connections. "We uncovered a way to vastly improve visitor circulation and Museum functionality, while tapping into the desire for exploration and discovery that are emblematic of science and also part of being human," said Gang. "Upon entering the space, natural daylight from above and sightlines to various activities inside invite movement through the Central Exhibition Hall on a journey towards deeper understanding. The architectural design grew out of the Museum's mission."
In designing the Central Exhibition Hall, which will serve as the Museum's Columbus Avenue entrance, Gang came up with the core idea of connecting this space to the geographic center of the Museum. Informed by processes found in nature, the gallery forms a continuous, flowing spatial experience along an east-west axis, allowing visitors to move beneath and across connective bridges and along sculpted walls that house the Museum's many programs. Recessed cavities in the sculptural walls create niches that will house exhibition elements designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates, as well as laboratories, imaging facilities, visualization theaters, and classrooms while also revealing more of the Museum's extensive scientific collections. Following Studio Gang's signature approach, in which material and structure are expressed for their inherent properties, the reinforced concrete walls of the Central Exhibition Hall, with its arches and niches, will have more than a purely aesthetic purpose: they will form the weight-bearing structure of the building's interior.
The visual language of the Central Exhibition Hall informed the conceptual design of the façade, which imagines the interior walls emerging and wrapping around the exterior. The exterior will be clad in glass and stone, which will be selected in the upcoming design phase with consideration of materials used in the existing complex. The conceptual design maintains the current heights of the Museum building complex on its western side, placing the Columbus Avenue façade at the same height as the buildings on either side of the new entrance. On the south side, the façade is aligned with the adjacent building and steps back to meet the bordering building to the north. The conceptual design is consistent with the axial intention of the original 1872 master plan while recognizing the park setting in which the Museum is located.
The design greatly enhances visitor circulation at a museum where annual attendance has grown from approximately 3 to 5 million over the past several decades. It connects an array of existing galleries to new ones in ways that highlight intellectual links across different scientific disciplines, create adjacencies among and facilitate interaction within classrooms, laboratories, collections, and library resources, and place educational experiences within current scientific practice.
"With active learning environments for classes and the general public that better align with the highly interdisciplinary world that we live in, the Gilder Center will reveal the latest scientific thinking and its relevance to many of the most important issues of our time. It will enable learners of all ages and backgrounds to better understand the world around them and their place in it. It will also connect for the first time, both physically and intellectually, many of the Museum's existing galleries, thereby vastly improving visitor circulation and experience," said Futter.
"We are focused on the needs of 21st-century learners, offering unparalleled opportunities to engage with science and scientists. The exhibits in the Gilder Center will incorporate a blend of innovative learning strategies and imaging technologies with the Museum's extraordinary collections and far- reaching scientific research," said Ralph Appelbaum of Ralph Appelbaum Associates. Mobile technology will be integrated throughout the new Center for seamless links between onsite and digital visitor journeys of discovery, a fully realized extension of what the Museum first piloted in 2010 with the introduction of the first indoor-navigation app, Explorer, which is currently being updated with more personalized and contextualized features.
Science and Education at the Museum
Since its founding in 1869, the Museum has had a dual mission of science and education. Over the last two decades, these two aspects of the mission have become increasingly integrated. The Museum has established the Richard Gilder Graduate School, which grants both the Ph.D. degree and the degree in Master of Arts in Teaching with a specialization in Earth science. It works with partners on the national, state, and local levels to pilot and develop innovative programs that leverage its unique scientific resources to help address challenges in STEM education, substantially extending its role in enriching formal science education and in providing professional development for teachers. The Museum's robust and growing portfolio of educational programs includes partnerships with schools, teacher professional development programs, and out-of-school programs for students that offer authentic research experiences, introduce digital tools of science, and explore college and career opportunities.
Major initiatives include the Urban Advantage Program, spearheaded by the Museum in partnership with seven other cultural institutions, the New York City Department of Education, and the Council of the City of New York, which this year will serve about 800 teachers in about 45 percent of the City's middle schools across all five boroughs and which reaches approximately 80,000 students; onsite professional development offerings for roughly 4,500 teachers, ranging from intensive workshops to introductions to the Museum and learning resources for their students; and out-of-school programs for students from pre-K through high school that serve approximately 2,500 participants a year. The demand for these educational offerings, as well as participation, has grown across the board, but the space dedicated to education classrooms is insufficient, out of date, fragmented, and difficult to access. By both adding and updating learning spaces, the Gilder Center will significantly enhance the Museum's capacity to serve New York students, teachers, and families.
"The American Museum of Natural History is so many things to New York: a cutting-edge research institution, an educational powerhouse, and a resource that New Yorkers and their families have enjoyed for generations," said acting Cultural Affairs Commissioner Edwin Torres. "We look forward to working with the Museum to create an asset that allows residents and visitors even greater access to its extraordinary programming and exhibitions."
Exhibition and Program Elements
More than any other gallery, the Central Exhibition Hall and the niches housed in its walls will reveal the Museum as an active scientific and educational institution with closely integrated educational experiences, scientific resources, and exhibition areas. The public will be able to engage with innovative tools used by Museum scientists, such as the tools used for gene mapping, 3D imaging, and big data assimilation and visualization, to gain a deeper understanding of nature's complexity and how science is conducted today.
The Central Exhibition Hall will include a variety of education areas for learners of all ages and levels, including approximately the 500,000 visitors who come to the Museum as part of school and camp groups each year. Students of all backgrounds will have opportunities to observe and participate in the processes of scientific discovery in spaces designed to facilitate cross-disciplinary thinking and personalized learning.
"A distinctive strength of the Museum's educational programs is that they offer a connection to actual scientific work, practitioners, and the tools and methods of scientific thinking and research. The Gilder Center will extend this experience to all visitors, providing a way for all to ask questions and to connect the dots between scientific discoveries and our daily lives," said Futter.
Closely integrated exhibition and program elements in development include:
- The Collections Core, a vertical feature spanning several floors that will showcase a working section of the Museum's world-class collections and the activities of researchers who come to study its invaluable specimens and artifacts, which together form an irreplaceable record of life on Earth.
- The Invisible Worlds Theater, an immersive theater that will reveal new frontiers of scientific research made accessible with new imaging technology, from the intricate architecture of the human brain to our microbial ecosystem, and from the shadowy depths of the ocean to the outer reaches of the atmosphere.
- The Museum Library—one of the largest and most important natural history libraries in the world, which will now be revealed and made accessible to visitors and will offer a space for reading and contemplation surrounded by spectacular views of the Central Exhibition Hall and Theodore Roosevelt Park.
- An insect hall, which will showcase the variety of one of Earth's most diverse and abundant groups with specimens from the Museum's insect collection, one of the world's largest and most diverse collections of its kind, and live insects. The hall also will be the new home of the Museum's popular live butterfly conservatory.
- An interpretive wall, located at the center of the Museum's building complex, which will orient visitors, facilitate way-finding, and spark further exploration by showcasing current science, illuminating important concepts such as geologic time scales and evolutionary relationships, and issuing real-time updates on the pulse of our planet in a mosaic of video, data imagery, and interactive exhibits. The interpretive wall will not only anchor the onsite visit but will also become a crucial part of a seamless visitor journey that integrates onsite experiences with visitors' digital interactions with the Museum.
- Exhibition niches, a series of open, recessed chambers with exhibitions that will connect the wonders of the natural world with our own powers of perception and sensation. Visitors will experience such phenomena as the deep blue light emitted from the depths of an ice cave, the sounds of a tropical rain forest teeming with life, and the ultrasound cries of bats in the night sky and of whales in the deep ocean—sounds that are out of range to the human ear without the aid of sensitive sonars.
- Educational laboratories and classrooms, which will directly address the need to enhance STEM teaching and learning and enable teachers and students to access the Museum's extensive scientific resources. New facilities in the Gilder Center will allow students to carry out research projects in data visualization and assembly that mirror those conducted by Museum scientists and better prepare them for secondary education and the workforce. Classrooms featuring the latest digital and technological tools will be connected to scientific facilities and collections, and will offer innovative spaces for teaching science to middle school, early childhood, family, and adult learners.
- Scientific laboratories, which will be equipped with powerful state-of-the-art optical and electron microscopes, CT scanners, and workstations for 3D reconstruction and animation, will enable Museum scientists to image and analyze extensive amounts of information resident in fossil organisms, meteorites, and even cultural objects—all at levels of detail and accuracy that far exceed anything thought possible even a few years ago. Adjacent spaces will be devoted to investigators conducting computational research on big data produced through these detailed visualizations, with visitors having opportunities to observe ongoing lab investigations and resulting visualizations.
The Gilder Center is named for Museum Trustee Richard Gilder, who has donated more than $125 million to the Museum, including $50 million for the new center. The project cost is estimated to be $340 million, of which more than half has been raised.
Approximately 80 percent of the 218,000-square-foot project will be located within the area currently occupied by the Museum, creating vital connections throughout the complex. Three existing buildings within the Museum complex will be removed to minimize the impact on land that is now open space in Theodore Roosevelt Park to about 11,600 square feet (approximately a quarter acre).
If approved, construction of the Gilder Center will begin in 2017 after completion of the design. The goal is to open the Gilder Center in 2020, at the conclusion of the Museum's 150th anniversary in 2019.
In addition to Studio Gang Architects and Ralph Appelbaum Associates, the Museum has engaged landscape design firm Reed Hilderbrand to work with the Parks Department on a proposed design for the part of the Theodore Roosevelt Park that borders the new Gilder Center.
The project management team on the project is Zubatkin Owner Representation.
Museum Architectural History
The history of the Museum's architecture has always been an interplay between the original master plan, the evolution of architectural styles, and the institution's changing functional, scientific, educational, and technological needs. The original master plan, which envisioned a great square with rigorous symmetry in the four street façades, was realized in the south façade but only partially completed in the north, east, and west sides of the Museum complex.
The Gilder Center conceptual design is consistent with the master plan while continuing the Museum's long history of expressing its institutional identity, and the science of the day, in an architectural language that is fitting to its time and place, including its location in the Park.
Press Release: Museum Announces New Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation
The Board of Trustees of the American Museum of Natural History has voted to authorize the creation of a new Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, the selection of Studio Gang Architects, led by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, to design it, and the selection of Ralph Appelbaum of Ralph Appelbaum Associates to design the exhibitions. Museum Trustee Richard Gilder has made the lead gift, and the new Center will be named in recognition of his lifetime of extraordinarily generous giving which, inclusive of a new $50 million gift, totals over $125 million and makes him the single largest donor in the Museum's history.
"Science, education, technology, and innovation are driving forces of our time," said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. "From human health to the environment, many of the most important issues facing our society embody science, and it is essential that the public understanding of these vital topics be enhanced. At the same time, the role of museums is changing and the American Museum of Natural History aims to have a growing impact on science literacy and STEM education. Thanks to Dick Gilder's extraordinary generosity, the new Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation will enable a wholly new type of museum experience, and we are extremely grateful to him for his leadership and vision."
"Over the last two decades, the American Museum of Natural History has been transformed, and Dick Gilder has been there at every major turning point, from the creation of the Rose Center for Earth and Space to the establishment of the Richard Gilder Graduate School," said Lewis W. Bernard, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. "Where everyone else sees merely an unmet need, Dick sees opportunity. His latest exceptional gift will solidify his place as one of the most important figures in the Museum's history."
The new project, comprising approximately 218,000 square feet of existing and new space, is estimated to cost approximately $340 million, of which more than $100 million has been raised. The Museum's goal is to open the new Gilder Center, which will be located on Columbus Avenue at 79th Street on the west side of the Museum campus, in conjunction with its 150th anniversary in 2019–2020. In accordance with the Board of Trustees vote, the Museum will now begin the process of design and community consultation.
The new Center will reflect the full range of the Museum's integrated mission of science and education, letting visitors share in the excitement of scientific discovery, and will be the first project of this scope since the mobile revolution. The Gilder Center will significantly enhance the Museum's already-strong capacity to serve New York City school children, teachers, and families with such planned facilities as a new family learning center and a middle school academy. The new Center will also include exhibition galleries designed to reveal the mysteries of the natural world through current tools of scientific observation and innovative onsite and digital experiences. A new presentation venue will explore today's thrilling scientific investigation of unseen worlds inside the human body and brain, at the frontier of the ocean depths, and the outer reaches of the atmosphere. The Center also will provide additional portals for the public to explore the Museum's research collection of more than 33 million objects and specimens and to connect with the ongoing work of Museum scientists in state-of-the-art laboratories for research, imaging, and visualization.
Extension of scientific and educational mission
The need for the new Gilder Center results in large measure from the dramatic extension of the Museum's scientific research initiatives and education programs over the last two decades, a time in which the Museum's annual attendance has also increased from approximately 3 million to approximately 5 million. The opportunity to provide a venue where, utilizing cutting-edge scientific tools and exhibition techniques, visitors can engage in the most crucial scientific questions of our time—human biology and health, the environment, mass extinction, and evolution—comes just as the Museum's scientific scope has grown. Today, it includes the sequencing of whole genomes; the use of CT scans, 3D computer animation, and other visualization technologies; and the application of ultra-high-speed computing for complex problems that range from evolutionary relationships among species, the origin of languages in diverse cultures, and the spread of infectious diseases. The transformation of the Museum's educational enterprise has been particularly significant. Over the past two decades, the Museum has greatly expanded the scope of its educational offerings, including the number of students (approximately 500,000 school-aged children visiting in school and camp groups) and teachers (approximately 5,300 in professional development and teacher education programs) it serves annually, and the ways in which it does so. In 2003, the Museum led seven other New York City science institutions in the creation of Urban Advantage, a comprehensive science-learning approach for students and teachers, which now serves a third of all City middle schools across the five boroughs. In 2008, the Museum, which became one of only two museums in the world authorized to grant the Ph.D., admitted the inaugural class to its Richard Gilder Graduate School. In 2011, the Museum became the first to offer a free-standing Master of Arts in teaching Earth science. The Museum has long been a destination for school field trips and family visits, but today it works in partnership with Education Departments at the Federal, State, and City levels to formally connect Museum resources to teacher education and professional development and to school curricula. In addition to teacher-focused programs, the Museum is home to dozens of educational programs, including those that provide training in and mentoring for middle school, high school, and college students in conducting authentic scientific research.
Architectural and exhibition design selection
After reviewing proposals from a number of architects, the Museum selected Studio Gang Architects, led by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, to design the Gilder Center. "It was apparent that Jeanne Gang embraced the Museum's legacy in science and education, and she has demonstrated a pervasive sensitivity to sustainability and the relationship between nature and the built environment, particularly in urban settings," said Ms. Futter. "Jeanne's approach could not be more appropriate, since introducing New Yorkers and visitors from around the world to science and the natural world is what the Museum has done since its founding in 1869. Throughout her career, Jeanne has shown a special passion for projects that combine innovative, mission-driven design, with a commitment to creating community spaces that facilitate onsite and digital access."
"I was immediately struck by the immense range of work the Museum is already doing as an educational facility to reach learners of all ages," said Jeanne Gang, founder and design principal of Studio Gang. "This project and collaboration with the Museum is incredibly important to me and my entire team. The Gilder Center's holistic mission closely aligns with Studio Gang's interdisciplinary practice of integrating architecture, nature, science, and art. Designing spaces that facilitate interaction between science, education, and exhibition experiences will make possible the learning the new Gilder Center aspires to generate."
Ralph Appelbaum of Ralph Appelbaum Associates, who previously designed the exhibits in the Museum's Rose Center for Earth and Space, the fourth-floor fossil halls, and the Hall of Biodiversity, has been chosen to design the exhibition experiences for the Gilder Center.
"The Gilder Center connects the latest in innovative learning strategies and imaging technologies to the Museum's extraordinary collections and far-reaching scientific research," explained Appelbaum. "Focusing on the needs of 21st-century learners, it will offer unparalleled opportunities for hands-on engagement with science and scientists in a seamless blend of great architecture and amazing evidence of what we know and what Museum scientists are uncovering in almost daily new discoveries. The new tools we have to make the invisible visible, understandable, and relevant will continue the Museum's trail-blazing role as a global leader in free-choice learning and informal education. This will be the place where young people especially will discover their passion for science, engage with new communities through integrated social media, and find their futures—it's a vision of the Museum of the 21st century made real."
Evolution of the Museum Campus
In 2000, the opening of the Rose Center for Earth and Space made possible a complete modernization of the Museum's planetarium, including its presentation of the science of astrophysics and Earth science. In 2009, the Museum completed a restoration of the historic 77th Street façade, one of the first structures built specifically to house American Museum of Natural History collections and galleries. And in 2012, the Museum completed the restoration of the 1936 Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, which includes its Central Park West façade and honors America's "Conservation President" and the commitment to environmental conservation that he advanced. In considering this new Center, the Museum is not only seeking additional space for critical public education, exhibition, and scientific purposes but is also planning to create an entrance on Columbus Avenue at 79th Street.