Igniting a Community’s Passion For Nature and Science

Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Morgridge Family Exploration Center, Denver, CO

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is housed in a historic building that opened in 1908. During the past century, the core building has been expanded and renovated numerous times to meet the changing needs of the community, most recently with the addition of the Morgridge Family Exploration Center – an expansion solidifying the museum’s standing as the region’s premier institution of nature and science.

The new addition extends the south side of the museum, introducing a new entry sequence and new spaces aimed at sparking curiosity and interest in science. Above ground is the exploration center, which contains labs, educational spaces, an exhibition gallery and a hands-on discovery zone for young visitors. The two below-grade floors contain the Rocky Mountain Science & Collections Center housing the museum’s collection of nearly 4.3 million artifacts and specimens in an environmentally conditioned space.

As with any civic institution that gradually grows through additions (11 previous additions, in the case of this museum) creating structures that complement each other and create a blended experience for visitors is essential. To do so, we treated the addition as interstitial space, mediating the boundary between a vast park and the assemblage of historical structures that make up the museum. The thin addition clings to the older structures, while an adjoining outdoor plaza connects the museum to a neighboring park and creates an “outdoor studio” for the more than 315,000 children and teens who visit the museum each year.

The addition received LEED Platinum certification, reinforcing the museum’s goal to be a visible steward for sustainability to the community.