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Museum of the American Indian, Novato, California, United States

Tuesday 05 Aug 2014

Unique site demands sensitive design

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Museum of the American Indian to be submitted for planning in September 2014 

This new building for the Museum for the American Indian (MAI) will replace an existing modest structure that currently houses the Museum of the American Indian in Marin County, California. This unique site was a working Miwok Village one hundred years ago and is adjacent to an active creek; however, over time, the surrounding landscape has changed and subdivisions have grown around it.

Kuth Ranieri Architects’ design looks to blend the delicate and sacred Native history with the context of a suburban subdivision. The team’s approach was to create an integrated project by designing a building that could navigate this sub-rural context by appropriating the common construction materials of neighboring single-family houses: fences, siding and low pitched roofs, yet re-scripted this familiar kit-of-parts into a new expression of assembly.

The design of this 6,000 sq ft facility is based upon the overall forms of traditional Miwok kotchas and sweat lodges. Kuth Ranieri Architects studied how they were made, their scale and expression of natural materials and looked at the craftsmanship of basketry for which the Miwok are famous. Adopting their sensibility, which is both abstract and narrative, the team embraced how these simple structures revealed how they were assembled.

The program for the new Museum of the American Indian includes: a temperature and humidity controlled gallery and art storage, classroom, offices, store, scholarly research centre and courtyard for gathering and outdoor education.

The museum and educational spaces are organised around a captured space, an outdoor courtyard, within the forested village site. This main gathering space is expressive of the native cosmology of earth, sky and water. Covered by a transparent inverted canopy that frames the sky, the roof catches rainwater and releases it into a circular water feature at the ground plane.

The Museum and Miwok Park are within a small neighbourhood city park, sited between Novato Creek and modest, single-family homes. The environment is heavily forested with the exception of a large sunny grass field just west the main entrance. The park is used by the community for recreation and includes natural habitats along the creek, a playground, and areas for dog walking, picnicking and bocce courts.

The project will be submitted for Planning Review in September 2014 with the goal of finalising all regulatory approvals by February 2015. The Capital Campaign will also commence in September of 2014. Kuth Ranieri Architects was recently awarded a Citation for this project in the 2014 AIA San Francisco Design Awards' Unbuilt category.

Key Facts

Client Museum for the American Indian
Status Concept design
Value 0(m€)
Were you involved in this scheme?
Kuth Ranieri Architects

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