Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County names exhibition designer for La Brea Tar Pits makeover

Tar Treatment

Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County names exhibition designer for La Brea Tar Pits makeover

View of the mammoth sculptures in the Lake Pit at La Brea Tar Pits. (Courtesy NHMLAC)

Today the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announced it has selected the exhibition designers at Kossmanndejong (KDJ) to create interpretive signage and displays for the famous La Brea Tar Pits.

WEISS/MANFREDI’s design features a bridge across the Lake Pit at La Brea Tar Pits. (WEISS/MANFREDI/Courtesy NHMLAC)

The Amsterdam-based firm will work with museum staff and lead architect WEISS/MANFREDI to craft displays that help tell to story of the Ice Age fossils stuck in the natural asphalt (tar) at Hancock Park, just steps away from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Tar Pit’s Central L.A. location make it the world’s only active paleontological research site in a city.

With paths and walkways, the design team is making it easier to see ongoing excavations. A new, shaded outdoor classroom at Pit 91 will allow students to get an up-close look at ongoing research. (WEISS/MANFREDI
Courtesy NHMLAC)

Plans will help make that research more visible and more accessible to students. The designers are installing a 0.6-mile double helixshaped path through the park and around the pits, as well as a new outdoor classroom at Pit 91 so young people can get up close to science in action and learn more about the institution’s ongoing climate change research.

The Central Green at La Brea Tar Pits will be renovated to prioritize public recreation, picnic, play while preserving the existing grassy knolls. (WEISS/MANFREDI/Courtesy NHMLAC)
Aerial view of the “La Brea Loops and Lenses” master plan. (WEISS/MANFREDI/ Courtesy NHMLAC)

The renovations of the existing, nearly 50-year-old George C. Page Museum and surrounding park commenced in 2019 with the selection of WEISS/MANFREDI as the lead architect on “Loops and Lenses,” a fun name for a serious master plan.

A new shaded entry plaza at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Curson Avenue will welcome visitors in with framed views of the Pleistocene Garden bioswale, sculptures, and more. Another shaded canopy will allow entry from 6th Street. (WEISS/MANFREDI/Courtesy NHMLAC)

Alongside local firm Gruen Associates, WEISS/MANFREDI is expanding exhibits, improving collections spaces and research facilities (including a chemistry lab), and tightening connections between the tar pits, lawns, and the museum, which are spread across a site that’s the size of almost ten football fields.

The Visible Fossil Lab. (WEISS/MANFREDI/Courtesy NHMLAC)

The La Brea Tar Pits makeover is part of a major overhaul of its institutions across Los Angeles. In December, NHMLAC announced an expansion plan, NHM Commons, that will add a new wing and community hub to its Natural History Museum in Exposition Park. NHMLAC selected Frederick Fisher and Partners as the lead architect, with Studio MLA and Studio Joseph as landscape architect and exhibition designer, respectively. That project will open in 2024, one year after its originally forecasted opening date.