Architects and scientists discuss their inspiration for the new Gilder Center at a town hall meeting. See how the rock formations above appear to be reflected in the rendering below.
By Anna Mejorada
From architects to star scientists, the Museum of Natural History pulled out all the stops at a town hall meeting last week to impress the community with its plans for a new educational building called the Gilder Center. The addition has been a topic of contention amongst some UWS residents who fear it would take too much of the parkland surrounding the museum.
The meeting kicked off with a panel of experts that included Jeanne Gang, the head architect on the project, Michael Novacek, resident curator for the Division of Paleontology, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of StarTalk. While Tyson’s presence seemed to be motivated by his passion for the museum instead of direct involvement with the plans, he did offer a very interesting perspective on the new space and how its open design will serve to reinforce our five senses and allow visitors to immerse themselves in the exhibits ― which for all you Entomology fans includes a vast collection of insects the Museum is anxious to display according to Novacek.
The majority of the information was delivered by Ann Seigal, the museum’s SVP of Operations and Capital Program. Siegel addressed points of tension that had previously been brought up by the community. From the displacement of trees (up to nine may be removed) in the surrounding park to the decision to break ground at the 79th street entrance instead of over the parking garage, she said the plans for the Gilder Center have been carefully thought-out and a great amount of attention has been put towards making the new building as beneficial to the museum and the community as possible.
Gang walked through her team’s inspiration for the design which drew from the buildings symmetrical origins and a study of the way water flows in nature. The overall goal is to connect this new building with the existing structure to make it easier for visitors to navigate and maximize their exposure to exhibits and halls. Sustainability through the use of materials and natural light are also key factors for the function and aesthetic. She addressed some concerns over the rendering’s alabaster façade but said the design team is committed to using stone sourced from the Museum’s campus, which means the color could be almost anything.
The UWS’s City Council representative, Helen Rosenthal, offered her support for the project and put an emphasis on the educational benefits the Gilder Center will provide for the city.
During the Q&A portion of the night, parents, educators and representatives from local community groups voiced their opinions, with several expressing support for the updated design, they were pleased to see that their initial concerns about loss of parkland had been acknowledged. While a few still had concerns over the preservation of their tranquil park, the overall sentiment seemed to call for continued discussion and full transparency from the Museum as it moves forward with its plans. The goal is open the Gilder Center in 2020 as the Museum embarks on its 151st year.
See renderings of the project here.
Photo by Anna Mejorada.
Excellent article. I was there at the meeting as well, and you reflected perfectly the sentiment of the audience. The architect worked closely with Parks and also with Preservation to create an integrated, modern, financially sound improvement to the museum and grounds. The most touching speaker was the mother of a daughter who was involved in one of the museum’s educational programs, who has grown up to study computer science. You could tell that English was the speaker’s second language, yet she expressed, and symbolized, the whole point of this projec; to bring our youth into a symbiotic scientific environment to inspire their future, and our own.
I think this museum is doing a terrific job of preserving this neighborhood as well as enriching the lives of all of us on the UWS. Last week end we took our grandchildren to the bat talk. Where else would you see live bats and learn, as well as unlearn facts about bats. It my he kids were wide eyed when the bats came out, from the smallest to the largest. The “bat scientist” was personable, knowledgeable and fun. Keep building is what I say to this museum. You’re a very welcome addition in my book.
The point of this project is to give Mr. Gilder a building with his name on it!
I’m sorry but claims that “scientists and architects” support this building is a rather bogus one when it’s the scientist and architects paid by the Museum that are the ones involved.
You’re going to need to get over it.
Hopefully the anti-expansion curmudgeons will go away now. This project bring our neighborhood to new heights.
Well written article. Wasn’t at the meeting, but felt as if I was.
In what way does this help the neighborhood? I’m not sure I’m clear on that? Why would more major construction, less parking, less parkland and an educational center help a neighborhood?
Did your really ask: “Why would […] an educational center help a neighborhood?”
You must be trolling, right? Right!
How does more parking help the neighborhood? Aren’t the beautiful walkable neighborhoods why we all choose to live in New York? You could literally go anywhere else in the country and find acres and acres of free parking if that’s important to you.
How do you not see the benefits to of having a world-class educational and cultural institution like the AMNH right in our back yard? Construction? So what? I’m sure your neighbors were upset when your building was built too. And sorry, but I’ll take a museum expansion over a few lost parking spots any day. Now if you’re one of those miserable UWS hermits among us that hate tourists, rich folks, and everyone that hasn’t lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, well, you’ll just have to get over it and embrace the change. See you at the museum!
Because what yuppies want, yuppies get. I always forget, are we supposed to pull our selves up by our bootstraps or just hang ourselves with them? I can never remember anymore what the new rich folk in this neighborhood want.
You seem like the type that would prefer to hang yourself with them. Most everybody else here looks forward to the opportunity to better themselves. Maybe Lauren will be kind enough to kick the chair from under your feet? That way she can park on your spot on the street.
Who is this imposter??
Good thing you people were not around when the Metropolitan Museum or Art, Lincoln Center to say nothing of the original construction of the Natural History Museum! Acres of farms had to be plowed over to build the Met, a whole neighborhood to build Lincoln Center and I am sure the same was true for the Natural History Museum, but isn’t our community and city better off for it?
To Paul RL, Zulu, Jeff Berger,
My understanding is that WSR is a place where one is able to express an opinion, and I believe that the expectation is politeness.
Critical/attacking/nasty tones aimed at posters with a different opinion is not cool IMO.
In my family – extended/multi-generational – there is varied opinion on this issue as is the case with other issues. My daughter, a college student, hates the design and is completely against the addition. Is it not OK for her to have her opinion?
On the other side, my father-in-law is completely supportive of the museum’s plans.
Point taken, and thanks for the feedback.