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CO Architects Designs Signature Entry at L.A. Natural History Museum

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Thanks to a $13-million gift from The Otis Booth Foundation, the Natural History Museum (NHM) of Los Angeles County is going forward with a light-filled, three-story entrance pavilion, as designed by Los Angeles-based CO Architects.

CO Architects Designs Signature Entry at L.A. Natural History Museum
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The new, glass-walled Otis Booth Pavilion will prominently exhibit one of the museum’s signature holdings, a 63-ft-long fin whale skeleton, and will serve as a beacon to greet visitors and Los Angeles denizens alike.

“The goal of the Otis Booth Pavilion design is for the north face of the Natural History Museum to be as transparent as possible to visually offer the Museum’s collections to the people,” says Fabian Kremkus, AIA, LEED AP, associate principal at CO Architects, and senior designer on the NHM project. The Otis Booth Pavilion is named to honor the late museum benefactor and board member, whose surviving foundation is funding the new entrance.

Rising over redesigned terraces, gardens, walkways, and common areas, a soaring pedestrian bridge that goes through the Otis Booth Pavilion transports visitors from a promenade connected to Exposition Boulevard. The glass Pavilion’s ground level below enables a visual and physical flow of interior and exterior for a seamless connection among the Nature Lab, garden, and café. The Otis Booth Pavilion is scheduled for completion by November 2013, in time for the celebration of the Natural History Museum’s 100th anniversary.

According to CO, the signature structure exhibits design and engineering prowess in its structurally glazed curtain wall construction with vertical suspension rods and horizontal knife plates. The frameless structure and glass size are determined for minimal visual impact on the exhibition designs. East and west sides will have a receding ceramic frit pattern on the glass to mitigate of solar heat gain. The four-foot-deep ceiling structure housing some mechanical operations bevels inward to allow for transparent corners. A radiant slab at ground level conducts heating and cooling.

The Otis Booth Pavilion is part of the new North Campus at NHM, designed by CO Architects with Mia Lehrer + Associates, and overseen by Don Webb of the Cordell Corp. Matt Construction is the general contractor, and engineers include IBE Consulting Engineer (electrical) and John A. Martin & Associates (structural). In addition to Kremkus, the CO Architects team includes principal and project director Jorge de la Cal, AIA, LEED AP, Ed Martinez, Peter Junru Pan, LEED AP, Lisa Canoy, and Chao Chen, LEED AP.

CO Architects has a long history with NHM, having last year completed the renovation and seismic upgrade of the museum’s most iconic structure, the 1913 Building, considered a Beaux Arts masterpiece. CO Architects’ work on the 1913 Building has been honored with a Preservation Design Award by the California Preservation Foundation and a Los Angeles Architectural Award for Preservation from Los Angeles Business Council.

While changes to the 1913 Building were primarily invisible—the directive was to retrofit and restore infrastructure without affecting its appearance—CO Architects says its reinvention of NHM’s North Campus is a “masterful transformation of entrances, façades, public areas, café, car park, and exhibition space. The new entrance and ‘front yard’ invites the public to partake, to investigate this jewel in the heart of the city.”

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