National Museum of Wildlife Art

Jackson, Wyoming, USA

Our goal was to link the natural contours of the site with the museum and its contents.

 The National Museum of Wildlife Art is located on a dramatic 70-acre site on East Gros Ventre Butte in Jackson, Wyoming.  It offers visitors the rare opportunity to view wildlife in its natural habitat as well as depicted in paintings and sculpture mere feet away. The stone building blends into the native terrain, reflecting the natural beauty of the area while housing the nation’s premier fine art collection depicting North American wildlife and high-quality wildlife-related collections. 

Fentress Architects’ goal was to link the natural contours of the site with both the museum building and the contents of the museum. The building was allowed to grow from the hillside like one of the many natural rock outcroppings on the butte. The carefully planned road allows the structure to reveal itself as visitors move around it.

Upon arrival, visitors see only a rock wall leading to a simple entry.  From here, they are drawn in and encouraged to discover the museum through further exploration.  Animal tracks on the floor lead visitors through the canyon-like lobby. An opening in the lobby offers framed views of the refuge beyond, and visitors can ascend the staircase for a complete 360-degree view of the space. 

Award-Winning Design

  • Honor Award, AIA Denver, 1996
  • Honorable Mention, AIA Colorado, 1996
  • Merit Award, AIA Western Mountain, 1996
  • People’s Choice Award of Distinction, AIA Denver, 1996
  • People’s Choice Award of Distinction, AIA Denver, 1995
  • Honor Award, American Council of Engineering Companies, 1995
  • Grand Award, Gold Nugget Awards, Pacific Coast Builders Conference, 1995
  • First Place, Design Competition, 1991

Sustainable by Design

The museum’s strong contextual aesthetic is balanced by its practicality. It is a highly efficient building in a very harsh climate; as a result, the building was set into the hill so that the west elevation is completely covered, and the north and east elevations are partially sheltered. This reduced the exterior wall exposure by nearly 50-percent over the same sized building above grade. To maintain stringent requirements for temperature and humidity control, the galleries were located along the protected west wall, where temperature loads are stabilized.