Cleveland Museum of Natural History

  • Client

    • Cleveland Museum of Natural History
  • Project Type

Design Achievement - Located in the heart of University Circle, Cleveland’s cultural center, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s planetarium addition is proof that innovative buildings do not have to be monumental in scale to have strong impact. The unique building is a symbolic and technical tour de force that expresses the educational mission of the Museum through its iconic form and use of materials. Challenged to transform a program that is traditionally circular in shape and without windows into memorable architecture, DLR Group|Westlake Reed Leskosky’s  design evokes a precisely-machined astronomical instrument taking the form of a chamfered cone, angled and aligned with the North Star. The striking bronze-clad form enhances this prestigious cultural institution with a sculptural quality, while also assisting visitors to locate the North Star and navigate the ever-moving arrangement of the evening skies. The innovative use of end-emitting fiber optics on the exterior of the cone results in a dialogue between the randomness of the lights in the sky and the frozen grid of light on the building. Achieved through an extraordinary level of teamwork, the project was recognized by Building Design & Construction with a Team Project of the Year Merit Award as well as local and state AIA design awards.

Scope Summary – The 12,370 SF addition to the Museum consisted of a new planetarium, exhibit hall, entry passage, and support space, as well as an outdoor plaza with seating. The Planetarium’s form is approximately 60’ high at its tallest point and almost equally wide at the ground plane. The metal skin, created by stainless steel panels with titanium nitride sputtered coating, offers a rich, bronze look, as well as durability and ease of maintenance. The random scratched finish gives a subtle texture with perfect luster, yet disguises abrasion inevitably caused by nature. The chamfer through the cone creates an elliptical cross-section whose longitudinal axis is aligned at 41.5 degrees, the viewing angle at Cleveland’s latitude to the North Star. Placed on the same north-south axis as the building, the outdoor plaza indicates where a visitor should stand to use the building as the astronomical instrument it was designed to be. The Planetarium’s entrance passage links the cone form with the existing brick-clad building. Featuring an entryway of native Ohio stone and pulsating fiber-optic lights, the entrance gallery creates an effective transition from the realm of earth into “space.” DLR Group|WRL provided architectural, MEP and structural engineering, theatrical, and lighting design for the project.

DLR Group acquired Westlake Reed Leskosky in September 2016. Today, the combined design expertise and resources of Westlake Reed Leskosky and DLR Group serve clients as a global, integrated design firm committed to elevating the human experience through design.

Awards & Recognition

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  • Honor Award for Newly Completed Building

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) Ohio
  • Honor Award for Cultural Architecture and Golden Detail Award

    American Institute of Architects (AIA) Cleveland
  • Award for Teamwork

    American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • Design Award

    Metal Architecture
  • Live Award

    Northern Ohio
  • Team Project of the Year Merit Award

    Building Design and Construction

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Cleveland Museum of Natural History