The University of Alaska Museum of the North gets an icy facelift
The new University of Alaska Museum of the North doubled the size of the original building from 40,000 to 78,000 sq ft.
Architect Joan Soranno and the GDM/HGA architectural team designed the building to convey a sense of Alaska, with innovative lines and spaces evoking images of alpine ridges, glaciers, breakup on the Yukon River and the aurora. As visitors arrive in Fairbanks by air, rail and road, they will see this striking addition to the Fairbanks skyline, certain to become one of Alaska's major cultural landmarks.
The heart of the museum is a new lobby, a highly sculptural space that includes large, expansive windows highlighting the spectacular views of the Alaska Range and the Tanana River Valley. The 2-story, light-filled space creates a gracious, inviting entry experience for visitors. At night, a warm glow from the lobby becomes a beacon from Yukon Drive and allows passers-by to see the activity inside.
Adjacent to the lobby is a new museum store, prominently located near the main entry, and a new, multipurpose auditorium equipped with retractable seating for lectures, films and theatre performances. And a new special exhibition gallery and an art open storage gallery are accessible from the lobby on the first floor.
On the second floor of the museum addition, the new Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery is the main focus. Connected by a monumental stairway, the art gallery is visible from the lobby by large windows and openings. The sweeping volume accommodates oversized objects and provides an ideal setting to display the museum's vast art collection. A wide bridge connecting the art gallery to the ornamental stair has the best views of the Alaska Range and the lobby below, and also provides seating for rest and contemplation.
The exterior cladding for the University of Alaska Museum is panels of an aluminum composite material comprising three coats of a custom finish in white with mica flakes. The metallic finish subtly captures the different kinds of light in Alaska and changes how the building appears at different times of the day or seasons. Inside the new museum, indigenous stone and wood is used throughout the building.
The Museum expansion is the winner of a prestigious Chicago Athenaeum 2008 American Architecture Award.