Gilder Center Exterior

The highly anticipated opening of the American Museum of Natural History’s new wing, the Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, took place today in New York City! We got a first look inside the museum addition last week and were captivated by the architecture of the new spaces and their inventive features. Here, we explore the 7 wonders of the Gilder Center, from the living specimens on display to the appealing food offerings!

1. The Operatic Building Facing the Grid

Interior lobby of the Gilder Center

The first wonder of the new $465 million, 230,000-square-foot Gilder Center is the building itself. In its design, lead architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang, the hip architecture firm headquartered in Chicago, seeks to heighten a visitor’s “sense of discovery and wonder” through a fluid landscape. The building’s experiential architecture encourages exploration. Critics cheered. “A poetic, joyful, theatrical work of public architecture and a highly sophisticated flight of sculptural fantasy,” wrote Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times. “A five-story well of light and space, a rhapsody of flowing structure,” wrote Michael J. Lewis in The Wall Street Journal, adding that Gilder is “lavish with sunlight.” Justin Davidson in New York Magazine calls Gilder “a theatrical and even operatic space” that feels “reassuringly luminous.” Of the three major critics, Davidson is the most cautious, saying, “The building is far from faultless, but it is gloriously imperfect, frankly attention-getting, and invigorating in its rejection of high gloss and generic bigness.” And in a phrase likely to be quoted well into the future, Davidson calls Gilder “High Flintstonian.”

All admire Gilder’s seemingly free-flowing shotcrete, trade name Gunite, a concrete mix of aggregate and Portland cement that is applied by spraying structural concrete directly onto rebar cages. This method gives Gilder its exuberant interior.

Gilder Center shotcrete atrium

In her remarks to the press on in April, Gang emphasized that this public space is “city-facing.” In aligning with the Manhattan grid, Gilder provides a straight view down West 79th Street, for which the AMNH pink buildings had long been a terminal vista. Gang tipped her hat to AMNH’s Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist who popularized Manhattanhenge. This phenomenon occurs twice yearly, when the setting sun aligns precisely with the street grid, creating a radiant glow that simultaneously illuminates both the north and south sides of every cross street on the grid.

When the construction fencing eventually comes down, we’ll find out what museum-going New Yorkers think of this huge new space on the Upper West Side