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Home mySSlife Entertainment The Perot Museum of Nature and Science: A world of wonder at every turn

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science: A world of wonder at every turn

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    The cultural scene in Dallas is about to explode again. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the latest edition to the thriving arts district, opens its doors to the world on Dec. 1, and, man, is the world going to be gobsmacked.

    The 180,000 square foot facility, designed by 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne, is located at 2201 North Field Street, on the west side of Woodall Rogers Freeway.
    Mayne and his firm designed the approach to the $185 million project, the entrance to which “leads through two native Texas ecologies: a forest of large native canopy trees and a terrace of native desert xeriscaping,” according to the architect’s statement, included in the museum’s media packet. “The overall building mass is conceived as a large cube floating over the site’s landscaped plinth (the lowest member of a base).”
    In 2006, the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place and the Dallas Children’s Museum merged to create the Museum of Nature and Science at Fair Park. In 2008, the five children of Ross and Margot Perot gave $10 million each to honor their parents and the 4.7 acre Victory Park, acquired in 2005 thanks to a $10-million grant from Hunt Petroleum.
    The 2009 groundbreaking for the museum was followed by three years of construction, leading up to the official opening  next month.
    During media day on Wednesday, one of the Perot daughters spoke on behalf of her family.
    “My siblings and I had, for a long time, looked for a meaningful way to honor our parents’ legacy in Dallas and say ‘Thank You’ to the city that has been so terrific to our family and this seemed like the perfect fit,” said Carolyn Perot Rathjen, who also serves as the chairman of the museum’s board of directors. “My dad is an engineer. My mom is a teacher and they have a passion for education. Coupled with the amazing team that had been assembled, the campaign was fully underway. It was an easy decision for us to join a winning team. It’s been a pleasure for all of us.”
    The Perot expects to attain three environmental designations, a LEED Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council; Green Globes Certification from the Green Building Initiative; and Sustainable Sites Initiative, which emphasizes landscape and site design.
    “Very few buildings in the U.S. have achieved two certifications, much less three,” said Jennifer Scripps, director of business and partnership development for the museum.
    The facility has a rainwater collection system that captures run-off into two 25,000-gallon cisterns. Metal pipes on the left of the grand entrance double as art and conduits to collect the rain, which will satisfy 74 percent of the museum’s non-potable water needs and 100 percent of the irrigation needs.
    The building also uses solar power to heat water. Its one acre roof features native plant materials that insulate the building and reduce city “heat island” effect.
    The building features five floors of public space with 11 permanent exhibit halls, including a children’s museum complete with outdoor play space and courtyard, and a state-of-the-art hall designed to host world-class traveling exhibitions.
    Once inside, visitors can choose which way to begin their journey, either from the top down (recommended because you ride an escalator – see photo at left – on the outside of the building, allowing for spectacular view of the city) or you begin at the bottom and work  your way up.
    There are four levels of wonder, including the chance to stand on a platform during a “live” earthquake, interact with a real tornado (bottom right) and an opportunity to pit yourself in a foot race  against a tyrannosaurus rex.
    During media day, members of various design teams camped out on each floor to answer questions.
    “This is a rare museum,” said Andy Anway, President of Amaze Design of Boston. “I’ve worked on projects all over the country. When you have leadership like this museum has had, single-minded focus on first-class, world-class, from start to finish, it’s been phenomenal.”
    Anway is also impressed with the way the museum presents scientific information.
    “This is a reconnection with people to science in their lives,” Anway said. “If you know how a deer does, you can know something about what a dinosaur does.”  
    In the “Being Human” hall, Calen Kaut, a cellular microbiologist, hosts real-time laboratory experiments.
    “Before this, I was in a lab and worked on a cure for diabetes,” Kaut explained. “I came back from doing lab work where you’re basically by yourself because I missed talking to people.”
    Kaut realizes she has so much to learn about her new “office.”
    “My grandma told me that the building is designed to be a limestone creek bed,” she said with a laugh.  
    The opening weekend schedule is Saturday, Dec. 1, from. 10 a.m. until midnight and Sunday, Dec. 2, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
    After opening weekend, regular hours are Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.; Sundays, noon until 5 p.m.
    Ticket are $15 for adults; children ages 2-11, $10; students ages 12-17 and seniors 65 and older, $10.
    For parking information, visit www.perotmuseum.org or call 214-428-5555.

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Editor’s note: Wear comfortable shoes. Take your camera. Although the museum officially opens Dec. 1, it might be best to delay your visit to avoid the gigantic crowds expected during the first few weeks.
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If you don’t eat at the museum cafe, the original El Fenix is just across the street.

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