Morphosis-Designed Perot Museum Opens in Dallas

Image by Mark Knight via Life of an ArchitectThe Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the latest work of Los Angeles-based Morphosis (the firm of Pritzker prize winner Thom Mayne), opened to the public last weekend in Dallas, Texas. Described by the NY Times as “alluring but unsettling,” the building features a ten-story concrete cube punched out by a transparent diagonal cylinder displaying one of the building’s elevators. The theatricality of the building’s circulation elements multiplies throughout the building—producing an effect that NYT reviewer Edward Rothstein describes as typically post-modern: “the visitor is led through a cosmos that can itself be dizzying: miniature worlds of systems and interactions; invocations of things known and half known; sensations, simulations and reflections; accounts of dissolution and evolution.”

The size and scope of the museum is meant to handle large crowds (6,000 visitors attended the opening day of the museum, according to the Dallas News). Five floors house 11 permanent exhibit halls. The lower level of the cube contains a modular traveling exhibit hall, an education wing with six learning labs, a flexible space auditorium, and a children’s museum including outdoor play space and a courtyard. The plinth level includes the main lobby (inhabited by a 35-foot Malawisaurus fossil), access to a roof deck, the Café, a 297-seat, multimedia 3D theater, and the Museum Shop.

With the addition of the 185 million, 180,000-square-foot museum complex, Dallas continues to rack up architectural significance. The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava, opened earlier in 2012. The Perot Museum joins buildings like the Cooper Union in New York, the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters in Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Federal Building among Mayne’s portfolio of unusual and original public buildings, and enforces the narrative that a Mayne building is the 21st century status symbol.

As relayed by the Life of an Architect blog, at the museum’s opening, Mayne described the building’s purpose to enhance the public experience of Dallas: “It is a fundamentally public building – a building that opens up, belongs to and activates the city.” (Maybe all this concern about activating the street is at least in part a reaction to recent criticism of the Cooper Union’s contribution of the streetscape of its block in Manhattan?)

Image by Mark Knight via Life of an Architect
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