The design for the new Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Arts and Science is the first planned element in the city’s new Arts District. Envisioned as a pivotal project in the revitalization of downtown Fresno, the expansive, cantilevered building shelters a broad public plaza at street level. A series of informal series of paths within and among the building’s three central piers, encourages movement and activity across the entire the urban block below.
GALLERIES ABOVE, PLAZA BELOW
Beneath the cantilevered parasol of the museum’s galleries, a reflective pool animates the building’s faceted belly with reflected light and provides further respite from the region’s intense summer temperatures. The plane of the plaza is crafted to allow the creation of this seasonal microclimate through incremental flooding—creating a series of areas at several scales that reflect the museum’s philosophy of interrelationship across varied scales and disciplines.
Above the plaza, the regional art and science museum is organized around a series of permanent science galleries and a large flexible art gallery. Intervening spaces, including the Art, Science and Knowledge Observatory, art and science response galleries, and learning labs encourage cross-disciplinary exploration and transform the museum’s collection into a dynamic, interactive environment of discovery. From this Gallery Level, lifted thirty feet above the plaza below, visitors can access the roof via an open-air amphitheater, which serves both as part of the museum’s larger media center and as a forum for independent cultural events such as evening film screenings. At this rooftop vantage point, visitors can begin to understand the museum’s position within the city and its larger, regional context.
The museum’s pedagogical commitment to cross-disciplinary collaboration and learning across traditional cultural or educational boundaries is reflected by the permanent collection organization, which is made accessible to the public through a display system of vitrines distributed as a field across the program of the museum. This strategy continues to provide an immersive view of collections storage through a double-height viewing space at the center of the Gallery Level. This zone of interaction, as well as several of the museum’s learning labs and the Art, Science and Knowledge Gallery into which patrons ascend, are each revealed to visitors in the public plaza below, as the building’s skin peels to allow a rare glimpse into the heart of the institution.
ICONOGRAPHY AND CONTEXT
The Museum is currently housed in the Fresno Bee Building, an existing 1933 newspaper building. The historic building had exhausted all available space and needed an expanded building to accommodate the permanent collect and traveling exhibition. The new building is immediately adjacent to the Fresno Bee Building as well as two other cultural institutions, the Central California History Museum and the new Fresno Central Library, which, together with the Museum, will form the core of a new cultural center for the city and the region.
LOCATION / Fresno, California
TYPE / Science & Art Museum & Expansion of Historic Fresno Bee Building
SIZE / 100,000sf
STATUS / Phase I completed 2008
ROLE / Design Architect & Architect of Record
COST / $63 million
AWARDS / City of Fresno Historic Preservation Award, 2008
Chicago Athenaeum / Museum of Architecture & Design American Architecture Award, 2006
Architecture Magazine P/A Award, 2005
AIA Los Angeles NEXT LA Merit Award, 2003