The organisation of the new building is based on five linear volumes of varying length and height arranged along the western face of the existing building. This arrangement forms a new gleaming facade and entrance facing downtown Anchorage. The new building offers windows through which the activity of the museum can be observed. The visitor, from within, is re-oriented to the city context and its extraordinary natural setting beyond. The glass facade of the new four-storey building is fritted with a striped mirror pattern, providing views out of and into the museum and reflecting the sky and surrounding mountainous environment.
The interior design concept exposes the concrete structure as part of the character of the internal spaces. Walls are constructed between columns to establish a series of rooms within the new building. The main public spaces – the entrance lobby, circulation atrium, cafe, and exhibition spaces – use different colours and materials to give each its own identity. Windows have been positioned in all non-exhibition spaces and some exhibition spaces.
The Anchorage Museum Expansion will also house the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, exhibiting 600 Alaska Native ethnographic artefacts from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian. The new common created in front of the museum will provide a new public space for downtown Anchorage.