The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is getting a brand new building, and the museum board has just approved a design concept. The estimated $325 million Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation will have a cavernous, sky-lit design by architect and MacArthur fellow Jeanne Gang’s Studio Gang Architects. 

The museum is looking to make room for more visitors, as annual attendance has grown by two million over the last couple decades. The new design is intended to improve circulation (finding an exhibit in the current building can feel like winding your way through the Minotaur’s labyrinth) and add more room for STEM education programs. It will include new space for collections, a theater, scientific labs, classrooms, and space for the museum library, which will be accessible to the public for the first time. 


Sculpted, reinforced concrete bridges—which look like cave formations—will criss-cross above the central exhibition hall. These interior arches form recessed cavities that will house exhibition spaces for the museum’s different programs.


Most of the new 218,000-square-foot development will be where the museum is currently located, and three existing buildings will be removed in the construction process. Some nearby residents oppose the expansion plan because it encroaches on green space in the adjacent Theodore Roosevelt Park—about a quarter acre of the park will be carved out to make room for the development. Pending approval from the Landmarks Commission, construction is set to begin in 2017, and the center is projected to open in 2020. 

[h/t: Gothamist]

All images courtesy Studio Gang Architects