Tel Aviv’s Wooden Treasure Chest: Wrapped in a wooden façade resembling Noah’s Ark, the new Steinhardt Museum of Natural History creates a new city landmark.
Housed inside a symbolic wooden treasure chest, that doubles as the cladding for the museum’s collection, Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History—with more than 5 million specimens collected over the past century—is the largest, most active center for biodiversity research in the Middle East.
Making a splash with its Noah’s Ark-looking façade, Kimmel Eshkolot Architects’ concept was two-fold: beckon museum patrons and passersby to come inside and explore, while also providing a climate-controlled space for the archeological specimens.
“The collections are the heart of the building and we wanted it to be exposed to the city and to the university,” explains Limor Amrani, architect, Kimmel Esh-kolot Architects, Tel Aviv.
They did so by connecting it to the façade of the building and covering it with wood to give a warm feeling. Although it is only 8-mm thick, the high pressure laminate (HPL) cladding, manufactured by Prodema, combined with its concrete backing, creates a thermally insulated envelope. It also helps creates a sense of continuity for visitors. “Although the public cannot enter inside the collections (they must glimpse of the specimens behind fire-rated glazing), we really wanted them to be present inside the museum and we wanted patrons and passersby to feel the magnitude of it from every side,” Amrani explains.
For the exterior, low-E glazing was specified at the top of the building on the east and west side where offices and research areas are situated, and in the curtainwall on the ground floor lobby. On the east façade, narrow, recessed windows were designed to help filter in the light from the low angled sun.
Facing the university’s botanical gardens, HPL panels, this time in shades of gray and bluish/green, were also used to clad the exterior and blend into the gardens. On the north and west elevations Grey Travertine stone was chosen for the auditorium.