Role: Architect & Museum Planner for Expanded Museum; Led team of architects, engineers and specialist museum consultants; Collaborated with exhibit design firms, including West Office Exhibition Design
Program: Immersive science exhibits, changing exhibits area, domed IMAX, lobby, cafe, gift shop, function spaces, classrooms, exhibit support, office and underground parking structure
Total Building Area: 165,000 sf
Status: Opened in 1996
Description: Located on a spectacular 6.6-acre site at the edge of Lake Erie at Cleveland’s North Coast Harbor, the Great Lakes Science Center is ideally located to play its role as a major tourist, cultural and educational attraction for the city. Its exhibits and other programs teach visitors about the interrelationships between the ecosystems of the Great Lakes and man’s scientific, environmental, technological and industrial activities in the region.
The 165,000-square-foot building houses 64,000 sf of indoor exhibits, more than 12,000 sf of outdoor exhibit terraces, an interactive theater and a 320-seat IMAX Domed theater. The centerpiece of the building is its 10,000-square-foot transparent Wintergarden, which functions as a public walkway to the harbor, an entry lobby, an exhibit gallery and a special events space. It links the IMAX theater, a science store and public dining areas on the east with three levels of exhibit galleries on the west. It offers visitors spectacular views of the city skyline and North Coast Harbor, including the famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, from inside the building.
A dramatic characteristic of the Science Center is its visibility from other city landmarks and pleasure boats in the harbor. The unusual 45-degree siting of the new facility heightens the institution’s effectiveness as a “gateway to the harbor.” It also creates both the space and opportunity to develop extensive adjacent outdoor promenades and public gathering spaces along the lakefront. Green space at North Coast Harbor was increase by 250% as a result of this project. The parking structure is located below a new public park space that visually extends a major vista in the city. This new parking garage was designed and built as part of the new building to allow for weather-protected entry directly into the lower level of the Wintergarden.
The intentionally strong indoor-outdoor relationship of the design is augmented by the massing of the building, which steps down to the harbor’s edge in a series of overlapping volumes. This solution softens the visual impact of the building and is responsive to the pedestrian scale of the harbor side promenades. It also offered us the opportunity to create a series of outdoor roof decks and terraces for exhibits and dining.
Our initial work on this project was to assist the Science Center’s start-up staff with development of a Comprehensive Master Plan. This museum planning work included documenting the new institution’s mission, roles and activity programs; projecting staffing and space requirements and a project budget; assessing the new institution’s operational feasibility; and developing an implementation plan. Following the successful fundraising campaign, we were hired as the Architect for the building and site. This allowed for seamless transition from planning to design with the same team members who envisioned the project from the start.
Since opening in 1996, the Science Center has been one of the most popular museum and attractions in Cleveland, inspiring and educating millions of its visitors along the way.