Contextually designed museums that become cherished landmarks
45 Projectsvalued at over$1.6 Billiondesigned by the same team
Our museum portfolio includes 30 under construction and completed projects, comprising over three million square feet of curatorial space.
Fentress Architects is guided by the humanistic ideals that a building must work well for its users and speak of and to its culture and community. For museums, designing to context also means creating environments that inspire, interpret, preserve, and educate through authentic experiences that foster deep understanding and promote personal connection.
We bring to each museum project a honed approach attained through decades of practicing modernism, sensitivity to place, and enthusiasm for the expressive potential of technology.
— Brian Chaffee, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C
More than 7 million visitors, members, school groups, staff, and event attendees experience Fentress Architects-designed museums each year. While the term museums applies to a wide variety of facility types—from nature centers to children museums, historical sites, planetariums, and even zoos or aquariums—Fentress Architects’ experience is most extensive in the design of art, history, natural history, and science and technology museums. The firm’s portfolio has garnered over 60 awards for remarkable accessibility, efficiency, flexibility, aesthetics, and sustainable design including:
- National Museum of the Marine Corps Expansion, Best Institutional Project (Over $30 Million), Associated Builders and Contractors, 2017
- Green Square Complex, Sir Walter Raleigh for Community Appearance, Raleigh City Council, 2012
- National Museum of the Marine Corps, American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum, 2008
- National Museum of Wildlife Art, Honor Award, AIA Denver, 1996
We, at Fentress Architects, are experts at designing museum space—be it small renovations and expansions like the Whitney Gallery at the Buffalo Bill Heritage Center, phased master plans like the four-phase development of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, substantial additions and conversions like the 50,000-square-foot Denver Art Museum Expansion, or construction like the Nature Research Center at Green Square Complex.
Regardless of scope, effective collaboration is essential to project success. Even small projects bring with them an abundance of stakeholders: museum directors, board members, curatorial staff, community organizations, fundraisers and financing teams, and—depending on the particular institution—university, city, state, even federal personnel. Complementing these individuals are teams of consultants: architects, exhibit designers, engineers, theater, lighting, audio-visual, security, and more.
Partners in Fundraising
Often brought in as capital campaigns launch, Fentress Architects has helped clients raise over XX million toward the realization of projects including the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The public-private partnership that brought this museum’s vision—resonate with a child’s sense of adventure, a parent’s awareness of history and service, and the Marine’s sense of duty and Honor—to fruition selected Fentress Architects in a design competition just one year into their capital campaign. By producing more than a dozen architectural models, artist renderings, and impassioned donor presentations, Fentress Architects had a role in helping to raise over $40 million in less than four years. In fact, the project was fully funded prior to completion, which allowed the client to leverage energy generated by the Museum’s opening in their fundraising efforts for the next phase of the master plan.
These walls remind all who visit here that honor, courage, and commitment are not just words. They are core values for a way of life that puts service above self. And these walls will keep the history of the Marine Corps alive for generations of Americans to come.
— President George W. Bush
Inspire, Interpret, Preserve, and Educate
For the LEED-Platinum-rated Nature Research Center at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, a primary objective was to reimagine the role of museums for patrons and their communities; to go beyond presenting material and to also show how that material is known and collected. This same desire—to inspire, interpret, preserve, and educate—was also a leading force for both the National Museum of Wildlife Art and the Smithsonian-affiliated Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
I used to refer to our museum, the National Museum of Wildlife Art, as the most significant architectural work in Wyoming, but it appears that with two Fentress Architects buildings in the state, I can no longer make that claim. We certainly want to encourage visitors to experience both the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Visiting these two outstanding museums, at the East and South gates of Yellowstone, is central to understanding and appreciating the wildlife, landscape, history, culture, and outdoor experience of the region.”
— Francine Carraro, Ph.D., former Director of the National Museum of Wildlife Art
Elevate the Visitor Experience
Museums continue to become evermore immersive and experiential, and not just within galleries and exhibits. Spaces dedicated to school and tour groups, food service, as well as events and meetings are also becoming more interactive. Unique and flexible design strategies for auditorium and orientation theaters are being implemented at the Denver Art Museum Expansion to offer dynamic spaces that can host a variety of events ranging from intimate gatherings to corporate functions, banquets, weddings and receptions—indoors and outside. Gallery spaces have been reimagined at the National Museum for Intelligence and Special Operations where exhibits will integrate innovative technologies, such as augmented reality simulations, interactive touch tables, and hands-on, artifact-based exhibits to immerse visitors in the experience.
At the Cleveland Museum of Natural History cafes, restaurants, and retail will provide high-quality, diverse options to accommodate each visitor. These design solutions elevate the visitor experience, and at the same time, support rental and other types of revenue opportunities.
Designed well, a cultural facility reinforces and enhances the experience of gathering together for reasons that are other than purely functional. A building’s aesthetics, the emotional response it evokes, should work on behalf of this need to connect.
— Curtis W. Fentress, FAIA, RIBA
Fentress Architects proudly supports the following industry associations:
Look for our booth at the next event.
Learn more about our civic+courts capabilities, contact:
Brian H. Chaffee FAIA, LEED AP BD+C