Bone Pit Recovery

Bone Pit Recovery

Joshua White

Peter Zumthor’s  

 

The Observation Pit was shuttered in the 1990s and largely obscured by new plantings. Painted dull beige on the outside and garish orange within, it was hidden in plain view. Kim Baer, the principal of KBDA Design, has been creating graphics for the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park, and she brought in Doug Suisman of Suisman Urban Design to collaborate on the restoration. Together they chose a new palette that dramatizes the structure: dark gray for the entry and stepped ramp, and a puttee tone for the walls and skylit roof of the rotunda. The ribbed polycarbonate clerestory and handsome grillwork were cleaned, and new lettering was added on the west side, making this pavilion a symbolic portal to the tar pits and the Page Museum. A neighboring pit is in active use; Bent’s serves as a showcase for the bones of mastodons, dire wolves, and saber-toothed tigers, which were preserved as the black ooze hardened. Building and bones achieve an effective fusion of the recent and distant past.


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