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An immersive art exhibit at the Heard Museum with screens on all visible walls of the room showing a stream surrounded by greenery
Heard Museum

Celebrating Native American Artists


Heard Museum

Project Location

Phoenix, AZ


98,000 SF


Architecture, engineering, interiors, audiovisual design, lighting design

The Heard Museum, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate founded in 1929, is dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art and is recognized internationally for the quality of its collections, world-class exhibitions, educational programming, artisan market, and cultural festivals. The Museum has undergone several significant expansions—in 1967, 1983, and 1999—and numerous renovations in its history resulting in a lack of cohesion among its various parts.

In order to fulfill its mission to provide relevancy, sustainability, and audience development, the Heard envisioned a series of projects, each with its own capital campaign, that included a renovated Grand Gallery capable of hosting large-scale exhibitions, a cohesive courtyard/outdoor cafe, entry and exit lobby sequence, security upgrades, and a reimagined, immersive ‘sky dome’ as a central exhibit experience. All projects were phased to accommodate available funding and to maintain continuous operations during construction.

Enhanced Experience

The resulting projects provide flexibility and accommodation for large-scale traveling exhibits, a clear circulation sequence for visitors, and improved security while maintaining the historic charm and presence of this beloved museum.

Grand Gallery

Single, Unified Space for Large-scale Shows

Our renovation design creates a more expansive and integrated gallery combining the existing Ullman and Lincoln Galleries into a single, exhibit space. The design visually unifies the two galleries by joining the flooring between the previous disparate spaces as a single-floor level. The new Grand Gallery provides flexibility of arrangement capable of accommodating large-scale traveling exhibits.

A white gallery in the Heard Museum with paintings displayed on the walls and a view of the adjoining gallery

A structural steel grid was constructed above the Grand Gallery’s ceiling, allowing up to 4,000 pounds of art to hang from the ceiling.

A gallery with paintings and a display of dressed mannequins, under a wood ceiling with exposed black support beams and pipes

Integrated technology and a wide range of lighting configurations prioritize creative exhibit design by artists and curators.

Entry Lobby and Courtyard

A Place for Gathering and Orientation

Our design for a renovated central courtyard and lobby unifies and strengthens the courtyard’s exterior presence as an oasis within the large complex, while offering a generous area of arrival and a new, clear wayfinding sequence for visitors. A new circulation flow connects guests departing the museum with other adjacent amenities such as the gift shop, bookstore, and indoor/outdoor café.

The same courtyard at an evening event, illuminated from the building interior and the lights strung through the area

The project refreshed the existing iconic black water fountains and added new lighting and an outdoor audio system for events in the courtyard.

A large black admissions desk with a screen behind listing admission prices and exhibition announcements

A renovated entry lobby includes a 22’ x 4’ video walls with capability for single or multi-layered audiovisual content.

Sky Dome

Integrated Projection Technology

Our design to renovate the two-story Jacobson Gallery (originally built in 1966) accommodates a permanent exhibit celebrating the art and culture of four nations through the works of contemporary Native American video artists and the nations’ rich histories. The project creates a “Sky Dome” as the central exhibit, with integrated projection technology transporting visitors to the physical environments of the Akimel O’Odham, Navajo, Yupik, and Seneca nations.

The intimate 360-degree, immersive experience features the work of four Indigenous videographers and shows dynamically changing landscapes, shifting from day to night, and between seasons.

Woman stands in front of immersive 360 degree video art display of snow dunes and ice

The Sky Dome ceiling is a fiber optic map of the cosmos centered on the North Star, which rotates to represent the change of seasons as seen from Arizona.


2023 Design Excellence Award

IIDA Southwest

Immersive Museum Design

blue tinted wall graphic of cambodian forest with glass display case in the foreground with queueing ropes and tour signs


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May 17, 2022

We were engaged to bring to life the compelling story of a particular artifact in the Cleveland Museum of Art archives – the “Cleveland Krishna.”

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