Learning the fun way

Friday 04 Nov 2011

Museum expansion aims to encourage excitement about learning and discovery

Since opening in 1992, The Children's Museum of Houston has experienced steady growth in attendance due to its leadership in developing innovative, interactive, early childhood programmes designed to create enthusiasm for a lifetime of learning and discovery.

The museum returned to Jackson & Ryan Architects in 2006 to design an expansion that would double exhibit space and provide needed public support space, education staff offices and more parking. The expansion includes 40,000 sq ft of exhibit space on three levels, a separate three story 17,000 sq ft educational and administration annex and parking deck that adds 140 spaces.

The original Children's Museum design derives from a playful interpretation of architecture typical of the adult world. The rhythm of pilasters along Binz Street, the monumental entry columns, and the 'Caryakids' supporting the LaBranch Street porch refer to classical architecture, but through the use of bold, iconic colour the symbolism suggests a child's world of fun and the excitement of discovery.

In the 2009 addition, the colour, pattern and scale of the Venturi and Jackson & Ryan Architects Binz façade is extended to the new wing. Even though this addition doubles the size of the original building, by locating one-third of the programme expansion below grade, the original scale and iconography are preserved and a larger, more flexible and sustainable courtyard for outdoor exhibits is achieved. 

The fence enclosing the courtyard is fabricated from ultraviolet, colourfast composite fiberglass used typically in the petrochemical and off-shore marine industries. The courtyard fence is a rhythm of symbolic family trees, which like the Cayrakids, provides an opportunity for donor recognition. 

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