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Winning design selected for La Brea Tar Pits makeover

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The dramatic overhaul calls for adding a slew of new walking paths, including a bridge across the Lake Pit

A rendering of a pathway extending over the tar pits with new low-rise buildings visible in the background.
A conceptual rendering of the project by Weiss/Manfredi features a bridge across the Lake Pit at La Brea Tar Pits.
Courtesy of Weiss/Manfredi

A design team led by New York-based architecture firm Weiss/Manfredi will guide a redesign of La Brea Tar Pits, one of LA’s most popular and treasured attractions.

Museum officials announced the selection today, saying Weiss/Manfredi’s conceptual designs stood out because they “captured the imaginations of a broad cross section of audiences.”

The firm’s team includes a number of LA-based collaborators, including experiential designer Karin Fong, paleobotanist Carole Gee, and architect and historic preservation advocate Brenda Levin of Levin and Associates, who will consult on the project.

Their proposal involves keeping the Page Museum as is, but adding a large new wing along Sixth Street. A central lawn would stretch out beneath the new wing and the existing museum, and the hill on which both are perched would lift up like a raised eyebrow to showcase museum artifacts.

Walking paths would stitch the campus together and create a new crossing over the largest tar pit.

The selection of the firm kicks off a “multi-year process of public engagement, master planning, design and construction” set to play out on the Miracle Mile campus, which includes the George C. Page Museum and green space.

Lori Bettison-Varga, president of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, which operates the museum, said they’re working toward “increasing community access, preserving the site’s iconic features and developing a more sustainable infrastructure for the next 50 years.”

An aerial view of the conceptual design presented in August by Weiss/Manfredi.
Courtesy of Weiss/Manfredi

Weiss/Manfredi beat out Danish firm Dorte Mandrup and Broad Museum architect Diller Scofidio and Renfro in the competition to “reimagine” the tar pits.

“Weiss/Manfredi and its collaborators stood out with a concept for the site that is both full of fresh thinking,” said Christopher Hawthorne, the city’s chief design officer, who served on the design selection jury. Hawthorne also said the plan was “thoughtfully responsive” to the Tar pits’ role as both a green space and research institution and as a place of “deep emotional connection and nostalgia for Angelenos.”

A rendering of a park and shade structure.
A conceptual rendering of possible additions to the site.
Courtesy of Weiss/Manfredi

The Tar Pits are not the only museum on Wilshire to plan a huge makeover: its neighbor, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is moving ahead with plans to built a Peter Zumthor-designed new museum building that would straddle the boulevard.

Next to LACMA, the Renzo Piano-designed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and its big glass sphere are closing in on a 2020 completion date.