Anchorage Museum Expansion
The organisation of the new building is based on five linear volumes, of varying length and height, arranged along the western face of the existing building.
This arrangement does not only provide more space but also forms a new facade and entrance facing downtown Anchorage. The Museum and downtown Anchorage are now in a new relationship.
The glass facade of the four-story building is fritted with a striped mirror pattern, providing views out of and into the museum and reflecting the sky and surrounding mountainous environment. The painted external striped pattern starts to disguise the vertical and horizontal joints between the panels, introducing a geometry bigger than the panel system.
The interior design concept exposes the concrete structure as part of the character of the internal spaces. Walls are constructed between columns to establish a series of rooms within the new building. Visitor services are focused on the ground floor, with the staircase providing a view to the top of the building.
The main public spaces – the entrance lobby, circulation atrium, cafe, and exhibition spaces use different colors and materials to give each its own identity. Windows have been positioned in all non-exhibition spaces as well as some exhibition spaces.
The fourth floor gallery faces east with a spectacular mountain view. It is a natural place for events and receptions as well as a gallery. Light from this level goes down into the heart of the building.
From the beginning, it was clear that the two buildings should work together. The expansion is not just a new wing to be accessed through the original door. This expansion creates a profound change of orientation by opening to the community and the landscape. The challenge for this project was to do something new, and reasonably dramatic.
There is no point in anonymously continuing the aesthetic of the current building. Yet, when you come into the building, the visitor must experience the whole of the institution through the connected circulation. When you see the two plans together, you can see the geometry that links them, though externally they look very different.
The other challenge for any museum is to move beyond the closed box. Historically they have been solid volumes with the space organized around the displays. In order for museums to be a more enjoyable experience for the visitor, we have to bring in more light without compromising the environmental conditions for the collections.
The Anchorage Museum Expansion will also house the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, exhibiting 600 Alaska Native ethnographic artefacts from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of American Indian. The Common created in front of the museum will provide a new public space for downtown Anchorage.