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See the Natural History Museum's New Gardens and Building

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[Photos by Elizabeth Daniels]

The Natural History Museum's celebrating its centenary this weekend by showing off their renovated North Campus, with its thriving Nature Gardens and soon-to-be-unveiled, glassy Otis Booth Pavilion. These last two projects cap a multiyear, $135-million effort to restore and remake the museum. Curbed got a sneak peak on a June Gloomy morning earlier this week, as workers were putting the final touches on the building and the kids' "Get Dirty Zone" just outside. Designed by landscape architects Mia Lehrer + Associates, the gardens were planted and opened last spring just in time for the Expo Line's maiden voyage. What with the pond, the feeders, the vines, flowers, and assorted fauna, it's been a hit with local wildlife since day one (fun fact: LA is the birdiest county in the country, with more than 500 species to be found within our borders), and now that it's had a year to mature it's all looking even more impressive.

When visitors enter the campus through the transit-friendly entrance on Exposition, they first come to the transition garden, "where the plantings trace the history of Southern California's flora from the time of the Spanish missions to today." From there they can explore the rest of the 3.5-acre gardens--there are edible gardens, a living wall, bird viewing platforms, amphitheater, and a water feature representing LA's water system that includes a pond, dry creek bed, and "urban water feature." There are also a series of ground trumpets through which visitors can listen to the sounds a tree makes as water is pulled up by its roots. It's all part of NHM's efforts to "turn the museum inside out" and hit visitors with those educational experiences as soon as they enter the campus.

But for those who want to get right inside, a bridge leads from the north entrance to the CO Architects-designed Otis Booth Pavillion, the six-story glass box with a 63-foot fin whale suspended from the ceiling. Visitors enter on the second level of the Pavilion, where they are greeted by a sound and light show that simulates water and fish and plays real life fin whale sounds (which sounds like it might be great for napping, but we didn't see a quiet corner to take advantage). Down below is the entrance to the nature lab, where visitors can take part in "citizen science activities" and learn more about the gardens and wildlife that visit it.

The wrap comes off the Booth this weekend--twice, actually--at events Saturday night and Sunday. If you make it down there, let us know what you think.
· Natural History Museum [Official Site]
· Natural History Museum's New Front Yard Opens For Expo [Curbed LA]