Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
Driving through downtown Dallas it is hard to miss the giant, 14 story, grey cube that is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Situated on a 4.7 acre site, this unique piece of architecture houses 11 permanent exhibits and one traveling exhibit.
Entering the building is an experience in and of itself. As visitors experience an outdoor plaza and science park, they are greeted by 13 bright frog sculptures playing around a pond. Water continually flows into the pond through a river with dinosaur tracks evident in the river bed.
Once inside the exhibits themselves the only word that comes to mind is ‘wow.’ I really do mean, ‘Wow!’
In the T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall, an Alamosaurus skeleton looms over everything including a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. In the Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall, visitors can manipulated an amethyst geode weighing over 2,000 lbs. Visitors can bend light and zoom through space in the Expanding Universe Hall. Not to mention all the cool exhibits and activities offered in the Moody Family Children’s Museum. All this and there are still eight exhibit halls left to explore.
The use of art, light, design, architecture and technology throughout the museum could keep any aficionados of these disciplines busy for days.
The $185-million museum, designed by 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne and his firm Morphosis Architects.
“The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is a gift to the city of Dallas,” Mayne said. “It is a fundamentally public building – a building that opens up, belongs to and activates the city. It is a place of exchange. It contains knowledge, preserves information and transmits ideas; ultimately, the public is as integral to the museum as the museum is to the city.
“The topic of science is connected to the city. It is not an isolated thing. As you are moving through the museum, you are always a part of the city itself.
“This building is only connected to this particular institution at this time. It is not duplicate able. It is completely unique to this institution. When people leave, they have never seen another building like this, so they take it away as an image that belongs to Perot Museum of Nature and Science.”
Just walking through the lobby, visitors can gaze at a Malawisaurus dinosaur fossil and interactive "dancing water" molecules.
“Everything is cool. There is something for everyone whether you are 3 or 30, a Ph.D. or an armature there is something in this museum for you,” said Nicole Small, the Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer, Per Museum of Nature and Science. “To me the neatest thing is that every time someone walks through the door, they have their own ‘aha’ moment.
“We have everything from dinosaurs to DNA. You can take a journey through our solar system. If you are one of our youngest learners, you can climb up and down the downtown Dallas skyline.”
The museum fully embraces the natural and manmade worlds, focusing on earth and space sciences, life and natural sciences, chemistry, physical sciences and engineering.
“The museum is a very comprehensive museum,” Andy Anway, the founder of Amaze Design, said. “The intention is to have a whole lot of different kinds of experiences, and also to show all of the interconnectedness between all of the science disciplines.
“We are in the universe hall right now, which is the top level. It is kind of like the infinite. If you go to the lower levels down in life and earth, you start to see the microscopic. So we are really showing how these systems interconnect. We hope that visitors will see those connections. At the same time, there is an awe factor for each gallery.”
Paul Bernhard, an exhibit designer at Paul Bernhard Exhibit Design, helped design the Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall, and Tom Hunt Energy Hall.
“The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is definitely the newest and most exciting science museum in the country,” Bernhard said. “It was really exciting for me to work on designing exhibits before there was even a building designed. They were able to tailor the exhibit design exactly to the building. Usually you start with an empty space and you have to redo it. This time, from the beginning, we had a blank slate to design exhibits.”
The halls feature state-of-the-art video and 3-D computer animation with life-like simulation. Tabletop landscapes and computer-generated flyovers provide eye-popping enhancement supported with timely, relevant and engaging educational lessons and programs.
David Quayle, Customer Executive with Dell Services.
“Dell donated about $6.5 million of technology to the museum,” said David Quayle, Customer Executive with Dell Services. “Above many of the exhibits is a Dell computer running the interactive touch screen. They are all networked together throughout the museum. All of the interactive touch screen stuff keeps kids interested and captures their attention.
“For me, it is interesting to see how technology highlights something like gems and minerals.”
Beginning December 1, the Perot Museum will operate year round Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. with the exception of Christmas Eve (close at 3 p.m.), Christmas (closed), New Year's Eve (close at 3 p.m.). The museum is located at the corner of N. Field Street and Woodall Rodgers Freeway in Victory Park, just north of downtown Dallas.
General admission to the exhibit halls for nonmembers will be $15 for adults (18-64), $12 for students (12-17) and seniors (65+), and $10 for children (2-11). Admission to the theater for non-members will be $8 for adults, students, seniors and children. Combo admission for non-members to the exhibit halls and theater will be $20 for adults (18-64), $17 for students (12-17) and seniors (65+), and $15 for children (2-11). For members, general exhibit hall admission will always be free, and admission to the theater will be $6 for member adults, students, seniors and children.
Some information provided by the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.