Project Opening: Museum at Prairie Fire

Opened in May 2014, the Museum at Prairiefire is a new natural history museum in Kansas based on a partnership with the American Museum of Natural History. The process began 7 years ago, when the proposal for a museum to house traveling exhibits came into the AMNH. Two exhibits a year from New York will go through the museum, and other traveling exhibits from other institutions will also come through on a rotating basis.

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When designing the exterior, the architect wanted to evoke the memory of prairie fires. To achieve this effect, the retaining walls in the landscape were uplit with color-changing lighting programmed to evoke the low fire line of a prairie fire. The building is illuminated with concealed color-changing uplight with more active flames. The whole effect is programmed to read as a single composition evoking prairie fire.

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The lobby presented a challenge with its high spaces and complex ceiling planes. The lighting system needed to be flexible as well. Track lighting was installed concealed in the perimeter slot where the ceiling meets the walls, and a series of color-changing uplights highlight the unique ceiling. This put all of the lighting within reach on the outer wall of the lobby.

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Sailer Das at the AMNH said “It’s tremendous…We have exceeded our membership targets multiple times. It’s been really rewarding, not just in terms of attendance, but with people responding really positively to the exhibitions and giving us really positive feedback.”

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