Via The New Yorker

It is not uncommon to hear the director of a fine-art museum, presiding over the ribbon-cutting for a shiny new wing, declare that its architecture is so pathbreaking that the building itself, far from being a mere container, deserves to be thought of as part of the permanent collection. The architect Jeanne Gang, the lead designer of the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History, in Manhattan, has given her clients every opportunity to make a similar claim. Here, though, the affinity to the collection flows not from an avant-garde approach, but, as seems fitting for a natural-history museum, a timeworn and elemental one. This new wing is anything but shiny.

The centerpiece of the Gilder Center, which will open to the public on May 4th, is a dramatic cavelike atrium, lined in sand-colored, rough-edged concrete, that soars, dips, and bends through five levels and eighty-three feet of vertical space—a kind of slot canyon for the Upper West Side. The Times, in a pair of articles published when the design was unveiled, in 2015, compared it to Jurassic Park and Dr. Seuss and said that it “evokes the Flintstones’ town, Bedrock.” Beyond Hanna-Barbera, the relevant architectural precedents include Erich Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower in Potsdam, Germany, of 1921; thin-shell mid-century designs by Félix Candela and Eero Saarinen, as well as Saarinen’s Morse and Ezra Stiles residential colleges at Yale; Le Corbusier’s curvilinear but substantial late-career buildings, in particular his concrete Notre Dame du Haut chapel on a hilltop in Ronchamp, France, completed in 1955; the 2014 Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens by Chile’s Smiljan Radić, a temporary structure that resembled an oversized dinosaur egg; and the undulating ceiling in the lobby of the 2015 Broad museum, in Los Angeles, by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

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