The San Diego Natural History Museum has called in Arup, in collaboration with Place Architecture, to redevelop part of a wing of the Museum that houses the Research Library, turning back-of-house space to a new rotating exhibition space.
In 1874, the San Diego Society of Natural History was founded, whose mission is to provide people with insight into the earth’s natural history. In 1912, the society opened their first location to the public, after which, in 1917, it bought a vacant Balboa Park building, where it moved its growing collection of natural curiosities. In 1933, the society took residence in the building in which it remains to this day.
In the intervening time, the building has undergone a number of renovations. In 1943, it was commandeered by the US Navy, transforming it into an infectious diseases ward – the renovation included the addition of a lift and a nurses station between floors, following the end of WW2, which preceded more renovations that were made to return the building to a place for natural history. In 1974, the San Diego Natural History Museum was accredited as a museum. The most major renovation project to date took placed in 2001, when the building’s capacity was more than doubled from 6,000 m2 to 14,000 m2. Today, the museum houses 7.5 million specimens and was visited by almost 450,000 people last year.
The San Diego Natural History Museum has decided to further expand its space for rotating collections through the development of additional space from a wing of the building. The new space, or around 445 m2, will see the addition of two new mezzanines, which are to serve as reading rooms, as the new ground space which is “defined by two 40ft architecturally exposed steel truss railings. The trusses offer a synthesis of form and function, creating a column-free space between existing building columns while also serving as railings and affording the necessary floor height clearances below.”
The new area is being developed by engineering and consultancy firm Arup in collaboration with Place Architecture. The firm provides a range of structural engineering and consultancy work for the redevelopment, which has, according to a spokesperson for the firm, included “The trusses, which create a dynamic aesthetic for the otherwise serene backdrop of the library, were developed using a series of parametrically driven algorithms assessing bar diameter, slope, spacing, and density.”