CSU, Chico News

Natural History Museum Soon To Have Walls

Date: 04-12-2007

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Greg Liggett
Northern California Natural History Museum

The Northern California Natural History Museum (NCNHM) Board and California State University, Chico are pleased to announce that a design and construction team has been selected for the museum building project.

Pending formal approval by the California State University Board of Trustees, the construction team will include John F. Otto, Inc. from Sacramento and Murray & Downs AIA Architects, Inc. from Placerville.

The museum, a gateway to the CSU, Chico campus, will showcase the North State’s natural diversity and geologic history and will be a community center promoting science and mathematics education.

"We are very excited that the museum is soon to be a museum with walls," said Greg Liggett, museum executive director, referring to the museum’s successful educational offerings known as the "Museum without Walls" programs. "The museum is a joint public-private partnership between Chico State and a dedicated group of community leaders to support science education throughout the region."

When fully operational, the museum will serve the general public, university students, teachers and school children with exciting hands-on exhibits, dynamic traveling exhibits, and educational programs.

"In planning the museum, we wanted the museum building to be our first exhibit, and the team accomplished that very well with their exciting design," Liggett said. "The building will represent the scope and mission of the museum through its architecture and as an example of sustainable design."

Debra Smith, senior project architect from Murray & Downs, noted, "The museum building will meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards at the "Silver" level. One key feature of sustainability will be the museum site exhibits, which will tie the history of Northern California into the sustainable future of the area."

Visitors will approach the building along a geologic time walk depicting significant events in the geologic development of Northern California. After going through the admission area, visitors will enter the lobby, dominated by a large light shaft, a skylight towering high overhead. This dramatic space will lead them into the large open Valley Gallery.

"The Valley Gallery is a two-story, naturally day-lit open space. It represents a geographic cross section through Northern California. Beginning from the north, a themed outdoor exhibit depicting a northern forest anchors the site. A river-themed flooring pattern extends throughout the gallery, north to south, representing the Sacramento River and the central valley. This unique feature leads visitors on an interpretive journey to the southern outdoor exhibit of the river delta," explained Jeffrey Lubenko, lead design architect from Murray and Downs.

Visitors will access the rest of the museum from the Valley Gallery, including the permanent exhibits, temporary and traveling exhibits, a discovery room and a demonstration laboratory. Museum work and storage spaces are also part of the design.

"We designed the building to become an interpretive exhibit in itself, enhancing the experience of the visitor through an architectural expression that tells a story of Northern California’s development throughout deep time." Lubenko said.

"We are very excited about this project," said Allison Otto, director of marketing for John F. Otto, Inc. "We are looking forward to working with Chico State, the Northern California Natural History Museum board and staff and Murray & Downs Architects to provide an educational, state-of-the-art museum for all visitors."

Final design on the museum building will continue over the next several months, and construction could begin as early as fall 2007. Construction of the building is projected to be complete late in 2008.