The SourceCivil Engineering MagazineSlideshow: Light-filled El Paso Children’s Museum design unveiled

Slideshow: Light-filled El Paso Children’s Museum design unveiled

By Catherine A. Cardno, Ph.D.

Last month, Snøhetta unveiled its architecturally lighthearted design for the new El Paso Children’s Museum in Texas. Designed in partnership with El Paso architect Exigo Architecture and interior exhibit design studio Gyroscope Inc., the museum is visually reminiscent of a cloud floating about the desert.

The building’s geometries are unique and immediately identifiable as a playful nod to childhood. A rectilinear base is wrapped in glass to provide open views into the ground floor lobby, exhibits, and cafe, inviting passersby to enter. A succession of barrel vaults top the structure, creating a cloudlike crown with windows that offer glimpses of the fun to be had within.

A 60 ft tall atrium within the building will provide views of what will surely be the museum’s most striking interactive experience: a two-story climbing structure that extends from the second to the fourth floor with multiple pathways that can accommodate varying mobility needs.

El Paso is located along the U.S.-Mexico border, with its partner city, Juarez, Mexico, located just across the border. Known as the Borderplex, the region is home to more than 2.7 million people who regularly cross the border — many daily.

The museum is being purpose-built to bring value to youth in the region, according to material distributed by Snøhetta. It is part civic classroom and activity center for the region’s families, designed for open-ended and imaginative play and exploration. It has been conceptualized to complement the Museo La Rodadora, an interactive children’s museum located in Juarez.

The 70,000 sq ft El Paso museum will be located in the heart of the city’s downtown arts district, offering education and cultural space to intergenerational families. It is being designed to hold accessibility and bilingualism as core values as it celebrates the free movement of ideas and cultures between the two cities and nations, irrespective of geopolitical borders. It will be built less than 1 km from El Paso del Norte, a major border crossing station.

The nearly 300 sunny days that the area receives each year are embraced in the design, which also includes outdoor gathering areas, discovery gardens that celebrate the nearby Chihuahuan Desert, and streetscapes. A grove of trees and a low-flow-water cooling mist playground will provide respite from the sun and heat.

The project broke ground in October and is expected to open in fall 2022.

Project credits: Design architect and landscape architect: Snøhetta, Oslo, Norway Architect of record: Exigo Architecture El Paso, Texas Exhibit design: Gyroscope Inc. Oakland, California Landscape architect of record: Greenway Studio, El Paso Structural, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and fire protection: Arup, London Art canopy design: Futureforms, San Francisco

(Renderings by Moare, Courtesy of Snøhetta)

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