Bell offers plan for move

Sam Boeser

When the Bell Museum of Natural History moves to the St. Paul campus, museum director Scott Lanyon hopes it will be more than a natural history museum.

The new museum should combine features of a science museum with aspects of art museums and nature centers, Lanyon told a group of architects from across the state who gathered Wednesday in the Nolte Center.

“They would be so much more effective if they were integrated into one museum,” Lanyon said.

The architects listened to University officials speak about their expectations for the new Bell Museum building and landscape. They will eventually present plans for the new museum that incorporate those expectations.

Over the next few months, the University will select an architect whose plan it likes, Lanyon said.

The project is currently in the schematic design phase, and architects are working to create a floor plan, site plan and possible images of the new museum.

The objective of the design phase is to “produce visual materials to support the private fund-raising effort,” said Orlyn Miller, director of architecture and planning at the University.

The projected cost is $32 million; $19 million is set aside for the site and building alone, which does not include exhibits.

The new building will be approximately 70,000 square feet, Miller said, which is close to the same size as the current building. The exact area where the building will be located within the planned site is not yet certain.

The museum is set to occupy a 12-acre plot of land on the southwest corner of Cleveland Avenue and Larpenteur Avenue.

The greenhouses already there will be taken down by spring in preparation for the move.

Lanyon said he hopes to incorporate Minnesota’s three major ecosystems – broadleaf forest, coniferous forest and prairie – into the museum’s outdoor property. The hope is to invite regional wildlife to take up residence in the constructed landscapes.

The public will be able to walk through these landscapes, and University classes will have the opportunity to conduct outdoor labs there.

The museum will still have many of the dioramas from the current museum on display in the new facility. However, the plan is to transform some of these into walk-through exhibits.

“This allows us to get people interested in nature,” Lanyon said.

The museum will need outside consultants to move the dioramas to the St. Paul campus, and the consultants will have to work with the chosen architect.

The new museum also hopes to include outdoor exhibits, publicly accessible research facilities and collections, and classrooms.

Lanyon also told architects that the new design must allow for frequent exhibit changes.

“Spaces need to be able to be reconfigured,” he said.

Lanyon told potential designers that the building will need space that earns money, such as a cafeteria, gift store or rental space.

The University expects the museum’s attendance and recognition to increase as a result of the new location and building.