Noted architects and exhibits designers have been selected to work their magic on the planned $65 million building that someday will house the Utah Museum of Natural History.The 17-acre site where the new museum is to be built is perched on the eastern section of Research Park next to Red Butte Gardens. It offers a stunning view across the Salt Lake Valley to the distant mountains. To protect the natural landscape behind it and to the north, the University of Utah has established a conservation easement of 450 acres, said Sarah George, museum director.
Chosen as architects were: Polshek Partnerships Architects, a New York architecture firm famous for the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History and the renovation of Carnegie Hall, both in that city, as well as other projects.
Gillies Stransky Brems Smith, a Salt Lake City company known for the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, South Towne Exposition Center, the Conference Center for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and visitor centers for Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. They are the architect of record, managing the project.
Exhibit designer: Ralph Applebaum Associates, New York City, designed exhibit halls in the American Museum of Natural History as well as the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Showing off the setting, a media event Wednesday during which the architect and designer choices were announced was held in the lobby of the nearby Huntsman Chemical Corp. in Research Park.
Museum officials stood behind a table on which several exhibits were displayed, including an ancient Indian figurine, a dinosaur skull and other treasures. On a backdrop were views of buildings and exhibits elsewhere, which were designed by teams chosen for this project.
Behind them, the lobby's tall glass wall displayed a breathtaking view, similar to that of the building site.
The view will be incorporated into the museum's operations, as it will be used to help explain the relationship between life and the landscape. Visitors will learn how change in the land affected Utah in the past "and the role of humans in this landscape that we all love so much," George said.
"Nowhere in the world is natural history as visible and as accessible as it is here in Utah. Given this environment we can build a world-class museum for everyone."
The natural history museum is located at the University of Utah, and the U. donated the ground for the new facility. U. president Michael Young said 90 percent of the museum collection is in storage, but once the new facility is built, substantially more will be on display.
The public will be able to watch "as the scientists and researchers work," Young added.
Spencer Eccles of the Emma Eccles Jones Foundation which made a large donation to get the museum project under way noted that "Nan Emma Jones, as we fondly referred to her, would be proud her resources are being used on this project, and that so many children will have such a wonderful learning experience. We're excited, also, to be part of it."
He added that the spectacular, panoramic view "from the Wasatch Mountains to the Great Basin" will help the museum "tell the important history of our state and this region to the world, and do so in ways that have never been possible before . . . kind of like an Olympic showcase that will never end."
Tom Schliemann, design architect with Polshek, said the extraordinary site sits at the edge of the urban environment with the natural landscape behind and to the north.
David Brems, building architect with the Gillies firm, said he was floored by the new Rose Center. "I'm honored to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.Museums help us discover what we wish to pass along to the next generation, said Ralph Applebaum of the exhibits design firm. "What our children get to learn in our museums is what we revere about human accomplishments and about our understanding of nature's glories."
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