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An Enchanting Addition to the American Museum of Natural History Houses the New Gilder Center within a Massive Geological Cavern

May 3, 2023

Grace Ebert

A woman stands with a child overlooking the atrium of the gilder center

Kenneth C. Griffin Exploration Atrium. Photo by Alvaro Keding. All images © AMNH, shared with permission

A sculptural addition to the American Museum of Natural History encases the New York institution within a cavernous structure that captures the immensity of deep, geological time. The project of Chicago-based Studio Gang, the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation is a massive, dramatic space spanning 230,000 square feet with sweeping exhibition halls, a research library with a ceiling evocative of a gilled mushroom, a theater, and a five-story atrium filled with natural light.

Similar to the museum’s Central Park West entrance, Milford pink granite cloaks the exterior, and the undulating cliff-like facade features windows of fritted glass, a porous material that reduces glare, energy costs, and most importantly, the risk of bird collisions. The interior of the center mimics a hidden cave with walls that appear eroded by wind and water to reveal round, asymmetric openings, all of which are made with textured shotcrete, concrete that’s sprayed on an armature of rebar and metal mesh and then shaped. Designed as a system of loops to connect parts of the new wing with the existing building, the center’s structure allows visitors to seamlessly flow from one space to the next.


The undulating exterior of the Gilder Center illuminated by light at dusk

The Gilder Center. Photo by Iwan Baan

Many of the previously hidden collections and research labs are visible to the public for the first time, alongside the robust butterfly vivarium with more than 1,000 specimens, an interactive honeycomb that descends from above, and approximately four million fossils, skeletons, and other objects. Between the exhibition spaces are curved passes decked with their own displays, including a 19-foot recreation of a crystalline vein in Arkansas’s Ouachita Mountains as shown below. “The architecture taps into the desire for exploration and discovery that is so emblematic of science and also such a big part of being human,” said Jeanne Gang, founder of Studio Gang, in a statement. “The building invites you on a journey toward deeper understanding, sparking your curiosity and helping you find the amazing organisms and knowledge inside.”

In the making since 2014 with several setbacks, the Gilder Center officially opens on May 4, and you can find more of Studio Gang’s organic designs on its site.


Three floors of the cavernous stone interior of the Gilder Center atrium

The Kenneth C. Griffin Exploration Atrium. Photo by Iwan Baan

Kids play with the interactive honeycomb sculpture

The Hive in the Susan and Peter J. Solomon Family Insectarium. Photo by Alvaro Keding

A crystalline structure lines a wall encased in glass along a hallway

Yurman Family Crystalline Pass and the link to the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals. Photo by Alvaro Keding

Patrons sit in a library with walls lined with books

The David S. and Ruth L. Gottesman Research Library and Learning Center. Photo by Alvaro Keding

Visitors look at collections encased in glass

The Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Collections Core. Photo by Alvaro Keding

Two photos, both of the cavernous stone interior of the atrium

Left: The Kenneth C. Griffin Exploration Atrium. Right: Sightlines from the third-floor bridge. Photos by Iwan Baan

Visitors walk up the staircase of the atrium with cavernous stone like expanses above

The staircase in the Kenneth C. Griffin Exploration Atrium. Photo by Iwan Baan

A child peers down at a butterfly dispaly

Magnifying glass stations in the Davis Family Butterfly Vivarium. Photo by Denis Finnin

Collections encased in glass are shown at the back of a cavernous space

The second floor of the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Collections Core. Photo by Iwan Baan

A cavernous stone interior passes from a hallway to a room

Fourth-floor bridge links and connections. Photo by Iwan Baan





A Circular Monument of Rust-Colored Stone Rests Atop Qujiang Museum of Fine Arts

March 9, 2023

Grace Ebert

A photo of a rust-hued circular structure shot from the inside looking out toward the sky

All images © Neri&Hu

A walkable sculpture now marks the eastern entrance of Xi’an’s Qujiang Museum of Fine Arts, providing a hidden space with natural light and open air in the midst of the bustling Chinese city. The project of Shanghai-based architecture firm Neri&Hu, “The Urban Monument” is built with terracotta-colored travertine and comprised of four sections that allow visitors to seamlessly pass from street to interior to outdoor gathering space. Located south of the towering Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, the immense project similarly references local ancient culture and is designed to mimic an illuminated clay lantern.

Neri&Hu maintained the underground museum’s original stairs to draw in pedestrians and lead them to a sunken piazza, and a latticed facade allows sunlight to brighten the inner walkways. In addition to the galleries, a massive amphitheater with concentric benches for seating sits at the top of the structure, which also holds public restrooms, a restaurant, a lounge, and retail space.

Completed in December 2021, “The Urban Monument” is one of many of Neri&Hu’s architectural projects that play with geometries and light, which you can explore on its site.


A photo of a rust-hued circular structure shot from the inside looking out toward the sky

Two photos of a rust-hued circular structure, one shot from the inside looking out toward the sky, the other showing the latticed facade

A photo of a rust-hued circular structure shot from the inside to show the latticed facade

Two photos of a rust-hued circular structure, one shot from the inside looking out toward the sky, the other showing the latticed facade up close

A photo of a rust-hued circular structure shot from the inside looking out toward the sky

A photo of a rust-hued circular structure with latticed facade

A photo of a rust-hued circular structure shot from the inside and showing the latticed facade



Art History

While Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ Is on Loan, the Mauritshuis Showcases 170 Imaginative Renditions in Its Place

February 24, 2023

Grace Ebert

A rendition of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" made form rubberbands

Ankie Gooijers. All images courtesy of the Mauritshuis

While Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” is on loan to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum for the largest-ever exhibition of the Dutch artist’s work, a cheeky surrogate takes its place. The Mauritshuis in the Hague is currently showing My Girl with a Pearl, a lighthearted and vastly creative digital installation, where the iconic painting usually resides.

Resulting from an open call last year that garnered nearly 3,500 submissions, the temporary piece features 170 renditions of Vermeer’s 1655 portrait presented on a loop. Mediums and styles vary widely, and the installation features everything from an abstract iteration using multi-color rubber bands to elegantly photographed portraiture to the viral corn-cob figure.

My Girl with a Pearl is on view through April 1 when the original painting—which has been the site of speculation in recent weeks as scholars revealed the earring to be an imitation—is slated to return to the Hague. Those who won’t be able to see the installation in person can find dozens of the renditions on Instagram, in addition to a virtual exhibition of the Vermeer exhibition on the Rijksmuseum’s site.


A rendition of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" featuring a Black person

Lab 07

A rendition of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" featuring a duck

Guus the Duck

A rendition of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" featuring a corn cob

Nanan Kang

A rendition of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" featuring a sardine style can

Ege Islekel

A rendition of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" featuring dinnerware

Emil Schwärzler

Two renditions of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" featuring a mouse and abstract lines

Left: Kathy Clemente. Right: Rick Rojnic

A rendition of Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" featuring a portrait of a young Black woman

Caroline Sikkenk



Colossal Design

Interview: Jessica Oreck of the Office of Collecting & Design On Her Enormous Museum of Miniatures

November 4, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Jessica Oreck, shared with permission

In Las Vegas, the Office of Collecting & Design is a haven for the minute, the small objects that have been broken, separated from their partners, or grown obsolete and somehow found their way into the hands of Jessica Oreck. Today, the museum of miniatures houses countless objects from handmade sushi smaller than a pushpin and a teeny-tiny tube of Colgate to stone marbles and limbs detached from toy figures.

I see each object as being stitched together with the fabric of both its creator and all its previous caretakers. I try to preserve that connection while still keeping the object accessible for new interactions, new connections, even if that means the physicality of the object may degrade. The collections aren’t frozen behind glass. They are very much still a part of a living, breathing existence.—Jessica Oreck

Oreck speaks in this interview about the origin of the ever-expanding collection of miniatures, how respect and intuition ground her approach to the objects, and the mysterious story behind one of the strangest items she’s encountered.

Read the interview and see the collection.




Art Science

An Enormous ‘E.coli’ Floats Through the National Museum of Scotland at 5 Million Times Its Actual Size

August 10, 2022

Kate Mothes

“E.coli”. All images © Luke Jerram. Photo by Neil Hanna, courtesy of the artist and National Museum of Scotland

In the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, an enormous single-cell organism floats among the Victorian iron colonnades of the cavernous Grand Gallery. Bristol-based multidisciplinary artist Luke Jerram often explores the nature of scale and perception in his pieces (previously), and the latest installation of his inflatable sculpture “E.coli,” which has been displayed in locations around the U.K., spans 90 feet, representing the bacterium at 5 million times its actual size. (If humans were to scale up just as enormously, they would be about 5.5 miles tall!)

Escherichia coli (known as E.coli) is a group of mostly beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines of animals and humans. Some types can occasionally cause severe illness, usually transmitted on food. Jerram’s sculpture prompts visitors to re-examine their relationship with “germs,” elevating and celebrating the importance of bacteria for both health and science.

“E.coli” is on view as part of Edinburgh Art Festival through August 31. You can find more of Jerram’s work on his website.


Photo by Luke Jerram

Photo by Luke Jerram

Photo by Neil Hanna



Craft Design History

An Astonishing Array of Ceramic Mosaic Tiles Comprise a Japanese Museum’s Historical Collection

June 24, 2022

Kate Mothes

Image © Ryota Murase. All images courtesy of the Mosaic Tile Museum, shared with permission

In the Gifu Prefecture of Japan, a nucleus of creativity blossomed in Kasahara Town, Tajimi City, more than a millennium ago. Known for its history of ceramic production, the region celebrates its distinctive heritage with a spring and autumn festival, a ceramics-themed park, and pottery shops that teach visitors the tradition. Among its newest attractions, set in a rolling green, the Mosaic Tile Museum Tajimi focuses on a more recent aspect of the ceramics industry.

Following World War II, reconstruction efforts required building materials, and tiles were suddenly in high demand. In its heyday in the mid-1900s, Kasahara Town had more than 100 tile factories, and the delicate pieces were still being used for the construction of high-rise buildings in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Soon, international competition and new materials hampered local manufacturing and the ornate tiles fell out of fashion, discarded when new buildings replaced earlier ones. Around that time, a group of locals who understood the historical significance of these tiles began to salvage as many as they could from structures scheduled for demolition. “The volunteers fondly recall how their requests were initially met with bewilderment, but their activities have resulted in the preservation of the extremely rare materials forming our enormous collection today,” says a statement on the museum’s website.

Housed in an architecturally exuberant expression of the relationship between ceramic and the earth, the building was designed by architect and historian Terunobu Fujimori to nestle sympathetically in the surrounding landscape. Today, the museum’s collection holds more than 10,000 individual tiles, sample books or boards portraying tile products, tools and utensils, and objects such as wash basins, bathtubs, and export goods.

You can find more information on the museum’s website.


Image © Akitsugu Kojima

Image © Akitsugu Kojima

Image © Katsuhiko Kodera

Images © Katsuhiko Kodera (left) and Akitsugu Kojima (right)

Image © Akitsugu Kojima

Image © Akitsugu Kojima



A Colossal


Artist Cat Enamel Pins