Officials for the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) recently announced plans for a long-term initiative to reimagine and renovate the world-renowned La Brea Tar Pits and the George C. Page Museum. The task to completely reimagine the 12-acre museum campus in the Hancock Park neighborhood 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,” say museum officials.
Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of NHMLAC announced the master plan idea at an “ideas incubator” conference held June 6 at La Brea Tar Pits and the nearby El Rey Theatre. The discussion featured more than seventy leading figures from the fields of science, the arts, design, entertainment, education, technology, communications, philanthropy, and government.
Bettison-Varga also revealed the names of the three architect-led teams that will compete to lead the master planning team. Dorte Mandrup (Copenhagen), WEISS/MANFREDI (New York) and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (New York) were selected through a process that began in March 2019.
The three firms will now 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 says it expects to announce a chosen firm toward the end of 2019. The winning firm will then lead a multi-disciplinary creative team through a public engagement, master planning, design and construction process over the next several years.
The La Brea Tar Pits and The George C. Page Museum, built in 1977, and recently renamed the "museum at La Brea Tar Pits,” are an active, internationally renowned site of paleontological research on Wilshire Boulevard in the heart of a Los Angeles. The asphalt seeps at La Brea Tar Pits are the only active urban fossil dig site in the world. Plants and animals from the last 50,000 years are constantly being discovered, excavated and prepared on this site daily. Since research began in 1913, the Tar Pits have yielded millions of prehistoric animals samples, including saber-toothed cats, mammoths, dire wolf and mastodon skeletons, as well as innumerable plants, small rodents, and insects.
To reimagine La Brea Tar Pits, NHMLAC says it has directed the architects to assemble teams that include not only architects and landscape architects, but also scientists, engineers, designers and artists. The three finalists were selected based on the “overall quality and character of their response to a Request for Information, their design approach, their previous experience and team strength, references and project approach.”
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 12-acre parcel managed by NHMLAC.