Grand Opening For New Children's Museum Set For May 4

January 10, 2008

Construction was recently completed on the new Children's Museum/Museo De Los Ninos San Diego.
The $25 million project is 48,000 square feet and was constructed by Erickson-Hall with Rob Willington Quigley being the architectural firm that designed the building.

The new facility, which is situated at 200 W. Island Ave. along Front and Union streets, is a three-story tilt-up concrete building.

It has a series of open flexible spaces, which feature large glass windows that allows for natural light to enter the museum.

The rooftop is angled with a "saw tooth" like structure with photovoltaic panels and a 17-foot concrete entrance bridge.

From the inside of the museum all the construction is visible. From exposed braces holding the tilt-up panels to a transparent elevator in the middle of the building, all the gray concrete is visible so the colorful art can stand out more.

Also the museum will include 13,000 square feet of galleries, a public lobby, retail store, a café with exterior decks, activity areas and a 25,000 square foot multipurpose performance space.

In addition, there will be administrative offices for staff on the top floor.

What will make this museum unique is it will be downtown's largest public "green" project, and one of the first "green" museums in California.

The environmentally friendly and modern structure is made up of recycled building materials and features a solar electric system, water saving devices and natural daylight and convection cooling.

"In essence, the new museum will be a signature structure that enhances the community while serving as a civic model for 'green' architecture and practices," said Executive Director Rachel Teagle in a statement.

Groundbreaking for the construction of the building was April 13, 2003 and the public grand opening will be May 4.

Dave Weigle was the project manager for Erickson-Hall.

The need for a new building was basic necessity according to Jessica Hanson, spokesperson for the museum. The old facility was a warehouse, which was not designed to house a museum, and lacked up-to-date features for a 21st century museum. The new building is double the size of the old building and is expected to serve more than 200,000 visitors annually.

"The goal for us is to have a contemporary place, which will encourage children to think, play and create with innovative, hands-on art opportunities, classes, and first-rate exhibitions designed by emerging and established contemporary artists," Hanson said.

The museum will have three distinctive areas devoted to art and will be splashed throughout the facility.

The exhibit spaces will feature different artists' contemporary work including locals Ernest Silva, Zlatan Vukosavljevic and Roman de Salvo; Mexico City-based Gustavo Artigas and Maria Alos; and Tijuana based architect and artist Rene Peralta. They will be the first artists who will display their work, including an exhibit called Rain House, where kids can get a feel for stormy weather.

The studio spaces will be the interactive part of the museum. In these areas kids can create works of art hands-on through clay, paints or other material.

There will also be outdoor decks and patio areas where kids can enjoy the weather while painting or creating other art.

The third area will feature education spaces, where students can learn different techniques of how to paint, sculpt and create art.

Also on the lower level there will be a theater built where kids show off their acting skills and wear costumes to get the full stage experience, and a toddler room on the main level with a forest theme.

There will also be a wall painted by a graffiti artist, which will turn into an area where kids can scale the wall, ala mountain climbers.

In addition, last month the San Diego Architectural Foundation honored the building with an "Orchid" in its "sustainability" category for the museum's innovative and environmentally sustainable architecture.

Also part of this project is a new park adjacent to the museum. The triangular one-acre site is an extension of the museum that will be part of the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade.

"The park provides a playground for children to let loose and be themselves," Hanson said. "The park will include unique elements including a reading circle for quiet time or impromptu performances, a play structure for climbing, reaching, sliding and play enclosure for inspiring the body and the imagination."

Landscape architecture firm Spurlock Poirier, responsible for the Getty Museum's gardens in Los Angeles, designed the park. Construction of the park began in October and scheduled to be completed by the end of April.

The Children's Museum has been a staple in San Diego for over 20 years.

It first opened its doors in 1983 in the La Jolla Village Square and 10 years later moved downtown, after receiving a city block and warehouse from David Engel. The museum's old facility closed to the public in September 2002.