Mammoth of a Job

Three big-name studios shortlisted for La Brea Tar Pits master plan competition

The La Brea Tar Pits are festooned with life-sized mammoth sculptures. (Konrad Summers/Flickr)

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announced yesterday that it would be reimagining its 12-acre campus in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, home to the iconic La Brea Tar Pits and George C. Page Museum. To that end, three firms will compete to lead a master planning team that will be responsible for renovating and future-proofing the campus.

The NHMLAC first launched the search for a master planner in March of this year, and the three teams have been invited to create conceptual designs for review. The proposals will be unveiled in August of this year and the NHMLAC will take public feedback on each. After internal and public review, the winning team will be announced by the end of the year and will be responsible for leading the master plan team through the public review, planning, and construction phases of the renovation.

The shortlisted teams are as follows:

Dorte Mandrup is leading one team. While the Copenhagen-based firm’s most recently publicized project may be a blockbuster tower in Denmark, the NHMLAC noted in a press release that the firm has worked on five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the past, including several museums and libraries. The Dorte Mandrup team includes the London-based landscape architecture firm Martha Schwartz Partners, design firm Kontrapunkt, L.A.-based executive architects Gruen Associates, and Arup.

A museum with a frieze on top, surrounded by green hills

The George C. Page Museum is mainly underground, and sloped earthen walls surround the building. (David Seibold/Flickr)

The WEISS/MANFREDI team was singled out for its experience in designing large landscapes that invite public interaction, from Hunters Point South in Queens, to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, to the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. WEISS/MANFREDI’s collaborators are notably distinct in focus from the other teams: paleobotanist Dr. Carole Gee, graphic designer Michael Bierut, artist Mark Dion, and Karin Fong, renowned storytelling designer and cofounder of Imaginary Forces, were all tapped.

Rounding out the three finalists is the team led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). DS+R is no stranger to realizing large park projects either, and its Broad Museum project previously won the firm critical accolades in L.A. The DS+R team consists of the California-based landscape studio Rana Creek, and landscape architect, urbanist, and Hood Design Studio founder Walter Hood.

Whoever wins will have to balance the preservation of a unique paleontological resource with improving the flow and visitor capacity of the park campus.

“La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum are the only facilities of their kind in the world,” said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the NHMLAC, “an active, internationally renowned site of paleontological research in the heart of a great city, and a museum that both supports the scientists’ work and helps interpret it for more than 400,000 visitors a year. We are excited to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just renovate these facilities thoroughly but also to think deeply about how to make them function as well for neighbors and guests over the next 40 years as they have for the last 40—perhaps, even better.”

Related Stories