Evoking stories of Ice Age creatures in the middle of Los Angeles

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The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) today announced the beginning of a long-term initiative to reimagine and renovate one of the institution’s most prized components: its 12-acre campus in Hancock Park, encompassing the world-renowned La Brea Tar Pits and the George C. Page Museum. Three companies are in the finals competing for the assignment of leading the master planning team, and as the only non-American firm, we are one of the three.

La Brea Tar Pits is the only active paleontological research facility in the world located in a major urban area. Since research began in 1913, the Tar Pits have yielded millions of samples, including saber-toothed cats, dire wolf, mammoths and mastodon skeletons, innumerable plants, small rodents, and insects, and new discoveries are made daily in the Tar Pits open-air excavations. These collections constitute an unparalleled resource for understanding environmental change in Los Angeles, and the planet, during the last 50,000 years of Earth’s history.

Together with strong, international collaborators Martha Schwartz Partners (New York), Gruen Associates (Los Angeles), ARUP (Los Angeles), and Kontrapunkt (Copenhagen) we will develop conceptual approaches to the project, which NHMLAC will unveil for public comment in late August 2019. On the basis of its own review and the public’s feedback, NHMLAC expects to announce its chosen firm toward the end of 2019.

Just like the The Icefjord Centre and The Wadden Sea Centers in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, La Brea Tar Pits carry an enormously important cultural and natural heritage. These pits are like a rabbit hole - a gateway into the history and legacy of our planet and we are both humbled and truly excited about the opportunity to help convey that story.




About the project

The project for a comprehensive reimagining of this uniquely important campus will begin with the development of a creative master plan, undertaken to advance NHMLAC’s scientific research and public engagement for the next half-century. Dr. Bettison-Varga announced the inauguration of master planning at an “ideas incubator” held today at La Brea Tar Pits and the nearby El Rey Theatre, where NHMLAC convened more than seventy leading figures from the fields of science, the arts, design, entertainment, education, technology, communications, philanthropy, and government for a day of open-ended discussion that will inform and kick-start the design process.

“La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum are the only facilities of their kind in the world—an active, internationally renowned site of paleontological research in the heart of a great city, and a museum that both supports the scientists’ work and helps interpret it for more than 400,000 visitors a year. We are excited to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just renovate these facilities thoroughly but also to think deeply about how to make them function as well for neighbors and guests over the next 40 years as they have for the last 40—perhaps, even better. It’s an adventure that starts now, with the blue-sky thinking of our Ideas Incubator, and will continue with the work of three of the best architecture and design teams in the world—and the input of Angelenos as well. We look forward eagerly to seeing the concept proposals and hearing from our community,” Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) states in a press release.

The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County are a public / private partnership with the County of Los Angeles, which owns the 23 acres of Hancock Park, including the parcel managed by NHMLAC.

Read more about the competition and the La Brea Tar Pits here.

Photos by La Brea Tar Pits.