The latest addition to New York’s historic American Museum of Natural History, the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation will embody the Museum’s integrated mission of science education and exhibition.
At a time of urgent need for better public understanding of science and greater access to science education, the Gilder Center will offer new ways to learn about our world and share in the excitement of scientific discovery.
The design for the Gilder Center reclaims the physical heart of the museum and completes connections between existing galleries that were originally envisioned in the museum’s campus master plan. Visitor circulation is enhanced to better accommodate the museum’s rising annual attendance, which over the past several decades has grown from approximately 3 to 5 million.
Informed by processes found in nature, the Central Exhibition Hall, which will serve as the Museum’s new Columbus Avenue entrance, will form a continuous, flowing spatial experience along an east-west axis. The design will encourage visitors to move beneath and across connective bridges and along sculpted walls with openings that reveal the Museum’s many programs.
Niche spaces tucked within this central space will house exhibition elements designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates and exciting new learning spaces, while also revealing more of the Museum’s extensive scientific collections. The public will be able to engage with innovative tools used by scientists to gain a deeper understanding of our world and how science is conducted today.
Creating approximately thirty connections among ten different buildings, the Gilder Center will include the five-story Collections Core, housing millions of specimens and artifacts from the Museum's collection; the Insectarium, the first Museum gallery specifically dedicated to insects in more than 50 years; the Butterfly Vivarium, a year-round exhibit that doubles the space of the existing seasonal butterfly conservatory; and the Invisible Worlds Immersive Theater, showcasing cutting-edge scientific technologies.
The building's caverns, bridges, and arching walls will be formed using an industrial application of concrete that showcases its liquid properties. This technique, originally developed for infrastructural applications, creates a continuous interior without material seams or joints that becomes structural as it cures. The interior of this exciting space will demonstrate the structural principles subject to gravity without the traditional waste of formwork.
“We uncovered a way to vastly improve visitor circulation and museum functionality, while tapping into the desire for exploration and discovery that is so emblematic of science and also such a big part of being human. Upon entering the space, natural daylight from above and sight lines to various activities inside invite movement through the Central Exhibition Hall on a journey toward deeper understanding. The architectural design grew out of the museum’s mission.”