Tel Aviv University has a new asset. Kimmel Eshkolot’s ground-up Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, named for New York-based philanthropists Michael and Judy Steinhardt, rises five stories to encompass roughly 103, 550 square feet of which 18,300 square feet are display space. The building stands adjacent to the campus gates at the entryway to the university’s botanical gardens.
Its program presented a paradox. Along with exhibition space and ample area for the museum’s collections came the requirement for climate-controlled storage to house research collections, typically hidden from view. Kimmel Eshkolot opted instead to celebrate them, enfolding the building around a highly visible container that would, in fact, become the museum’s signature piece.
Conceived as a “treasure chest,” the three-story volume is clad with engineered wood and elevated above the entry plaza and lobby. It is equally visible from within the atrium where bridges serve to connect the building’s two wings, one for its public spaces, the other containing research and lab facilities on the upper levels.
Visitors experience the museum’s exhibits, say a spider’s dark corridor or a space showing mammals of all sorts and sizes, from a series of ramps, which is the museum’s vertical circulation. They span all five floors and end at the roof terrace overlooking the gardens. Future amenities supplementing the 195-seat auditorium are a café and shop, slated to open in the entry hall.