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Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science



Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science


  • Mechanical Engineer: Durkin & Villalta Partners Engineering
  • Civil Engineer: Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates
  • Landscape Architect: RATIO
  • Bowen Technovation

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Project Description


The Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science has become a cultural, educational and architectural landmark for the city. Therefore, the design for a new immersive theater and entry experience mandated adherence to a couple of key conceptual principals.

First, the rich architectural heritage of the existing institution must not only be preserved, but enhanced. In concert with the modern, glazed white brick entry pavilion designed by Victor Gruen in 1959, the new pavilion envisions a similar massing and material pallet. A very simple white terra cotta box is positioned to welcome visitors, across a new entry plaza, to a reimagined window into the three core museum disciplines. Again pulling inspiration from the original design, every aspect of the detailing and materials for the pavilion are simple, taut, and minimal. The white exterior is brought in to the interior wall surfaces creating a bright canvas of sorts, ripe for completing the composition through the positioning of theater and other art components envisioned for the space. A dark slate colored tile floor is used as a monolithic datum on which the pavilion rests, and the other lobby components are free to interact.

Second, the full mission of the museum, including arts, history, and science must be represented. Yet again, the design reaches back to the 1959 pavilion, and the expression of its “first in the state” planetarium. The new expression relies on a much larger and far more dynamic immersive theater component contrasting with and asserting itself within the confines of the new pavilion. Importantly, however, this interstellar-like spherical element is not only intended to embody the science component of the museum, but through its cladding represent the other disciplines as well. The rich mottled native wood cladding takes inspiration from the ancient artifacts found at the nearby Mann Site, and thus has the opportunity to become linked not only to the history of this local ancient mound-building cultural, but its art as well. The theme is also extended to a planted “mound” in the entry plaza which provides a subtle connection between the interior and exterior design. Finally, in addition to the acrylic railing art piece for the pavilion, minimal use of stainless and a clear anegre wood fill out the intentionally limited but engaging material pallet.

So it is with the great and deliberate simplicity of a white box containing an imaginative wood ball, that both a meaningful connection to the past is made and an adventure to the present and beyond begins.
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