Awards Focus: Natural History Museum of Utah

LAM is highlighting student and professional winners from the 2021 ASLA Awards by asking designers to share an outtake that tells an important part of their project’s narrative.

Natural History Museum of Utah: A Museum Without Walls

Design Workshop

General Design Award of Excellence

Image courtesy Design Workshop, Inc.

“The Natural History Museum rests at the threshold of urban and natural lands. An early parti sketch illustrates how the multistory modern building embeds itself into the steep hillside, each level offering an opportunity to visually and physically engage with the natural landscape through abstracted tectonic-like interventions that extend the interior program and use.” 

                                         —Mike Albert, Design Workshop 


About  the Natural History Museum of Utah:

With a location chosen for its cross section of geological, ecological, and cultural landscape features, the Natural History Museum of Utah landscape contains 180 feet of elevation change on a 17-acre site in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. The design team divided the sloping site with locally sourced red sandstone gabion walls, and seeds collected from plants disturbed by the building’s construction were planted when the dust settled. The museum’s environmental features include a campus with one of Utah’s largest solar panel installations, a green roof, and two 10,000-gallon cisterns for irrigation. With grading and revegetation, 90 percent of the site’s disturbed area was restored. At the museum, a set of monolithic boulders tells the story of the region’s geologic history in blazing heat, unending pressure, and epochs of time, and a “land terrace” works as an outdoor classroom backed by glass that reflects its powerfully beautiful surroundings. A mirror to the mountain, the museum’s landscape is also built with the same geologic building blocks as the Wasatch Range itself, bringing its meditation on place, time, and perspective full circle.

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