Unveiled: Utah Museum of Natural History

Unveiled: Utah Museum of Natural History

The museum’s copper-clad facade echoes the geology of the Wasatch Range.
Red Square, inc. for Polshek and GSBS

To be located on a stunning site between Salt Lake City and the Wasatch foothills, the new, 160,000-square-foot Utah Museum of Natural History will house nearly double the exhibition and education space of the existing facility. Clad in rugged copper panels, the museum, which aims for a LEED Gold rating, will include partially planted roofs and the eventual use of photovoltaic arrays (the museum is currently seeking a sponsor for the solar panels), as well as water-saving and water-retention features, which are important in Utah’s dry climate. “Utah is all about the land and how the culture engages the land,” said Todd Schliemann, design partner at Polshek Partnership, the firm designing the museum along with GSBS Architects. “The building is at the edge of where the city ends and the landscape begins.”

Inside, visitors will enter a large atrium, which the architects call “the canyon,” then ascend to the top and wind downward through the exhibitions. The canyon will also double as a public gathering place and venue for private events.

To gain the commission, Polshek answered a two-stage interview and request-for-proposals process, prevailing over Moshe Safdie and Associates and Antoine Predock Architect, among others.

Architect: Polshek Partnership with GSBS Architects
Client: University of Utah
Location: Salt Lake City
Completion: 2010-2011