Space Container

Space Container

Sam Lubell

The California Science Center is gearing up to host the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which will arrive on October 13 after a grand parade through Los Angeles. Since it has to fit a space shuttle, this is quite a building.

The massive Butler steel structure, designed by Portland, Oregon-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF) Architects and constructed by Morley Builders and T.Violé Construction, will house the shuttle and other educational exhibitions until ZGF finishes a permanent structure for the spacecraft. According to Tony Budrovich, deputy director of operations at the Science Center, the temporary building will also contain a NASA command module, a shuttle galley, and even the toilet of Endeavour, the fifth and final space-worthy shuttle NASA built.

The hall measures about 70 feet tall and about 17,460 square feet in area. Built on a concrete slab with seismic steel bracing and steel panels, it runs six bays long and five bays wide. The bracing is extra robust so that the entire west wall can be removed during the shuttle’s arrival. The Endeavour, a veteran of 25 missions into orbit and back, will be rolled into the building on a ramp made up of a giant plastic mat supported by compacted earth.


The shuttle’s permanent home will lie east of the Science Center. The design is still being worked out, but according to the Science Center’s president Jeffrey Rudolph, it will be more than 200 feet tall so that the shuttle and its rocket boosters can stand vertically in launch position.

“There will be nothing like it,” said a beaming Rudolph, who hopes the building will be ready in about five years. The display will also contain recreations of the shuttle’s flight deck and hold other space vehicles, possibly the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft, Rudolph said.

Meanwhile the fate of Frank Gehry’s angular, steel-clad Air and Space Gallery (formerly known as the California Aerospace Hall), which the museum closed in the summer of 2011, remains unclear. “We don’t know what the future holds for that building,” Rudolph said.