The Natural History Museum (NHM) of Los Angeles County has revealed details of its $75m expansion and renovation, designed by Frederick Fisher & Partners with landscape design by Studio-MLA and expected to open in 2024. Comprised of 33,000 sq. ft of new construction, 17,000 sq. ft of renovated space and 25,000 sq. ft of landscaping, the effort will include a new wing for the museum to be dubbed the NHM Commons. Referred to as a community hub, the NHM Commons will spread throughout the museum’s Exposition Park campus, adjacent to the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.
Highlights of the expansion include a 400-seat theatre and event space; a new plaza within Exposition Park and along the museum’s perimeter; a roughly 5,250 sq. ft entry pavilion, which will be free to the public and feature objects from the museum’s collection, including a 70ft sauropod dinosaur; and a new 990 sq. ft cafe. Exterior walls will be replaced with a glass façade that will bridge the gap between the outdoor space and the indoor structure, allowing the public to freely peek into the museum’s collection from the park.
“With or without a ticket, visitors will be able to connect with science, nature, culture, heritage and community,” says Lori Bettison-Varga, the museum’s president and director. “We see [NHM Commons] as a destination for visitors to Exposition Park and a place for Angelenos to experience programmes or grab a bite at the cafe.”
The museum has also formed two advisory councils, the NHM Commons Native American Advisory Council and the NHM Commons Advisory Coalition, to work with museum staff on incorporating elements that honour the Indigenous communities that historically called the region home. “The foundational work of the Native American Advisory Council is rooted in determining ways to build a sense of welcome, acknowledgement and respect for Native people who enter this space and opportunities to remind, express to and educate visitors that Los Angeles is on Native land,” says Bettison-Varga. The groups include representatives from a number of Southern California tribal nations, including Gabrieleno-Tongva, Tataviam, Chumash and Ajachmem. The Native American Advisory Council also oversaw the creation of new “sustainable” gardens that will be free and open to the public.
“We see NHM Commons as an anchor point in Exposition Park and a portal to the [museum’s] vitality,” Bettison-Varga adds. “We hope it will be a cherished spot where people can meet, enjoy each other’s company, and find and create interesting events and activities.”