• Terraced gardens, a misted playground, and an open-air section on the building’s top floor capitalize upon El Paso’s predominantly sunny weather. - rendering by Moare, courtesy Snøhetta

In 2018, renowned international architecture firm Snøhetta submitted the winning proposal for the El Paso Children’s Museum design competition. The initial design was a concrete mass on legs that floated above the city, capturing views of the borderplex created by El Paso and its Mexican neighbor, Ciudad Juárez. Updated renderings of the finalized design for the museum, which were revealed at the building’s groundbreaking ceremony in October, demonstrate a very different, yet equally playful, approach to El Paso’s newest cultural destination.

The 70,000-sf structure will be the city’s first purpose-built children’s museum. Although no longer literally elevated over the city, the updated design maintains the floating concept with its nebular form, glazed base, and starry exterior light display. A series of rolling barrel vaults creates a cloud-like crown, hovering over the heart of El Paso’s Downtown Arts District and providing views of the neighboring Franklin and Sierra de Juárez Mountains via flipflopping, arched windows. Ample outdoor amenities, including streetscapes and gardens designed to mimic the geology and botanical landscape of the Chihuahuan Desert, surround the double-height glazing at street level, inviting the public to enjoy the museum’s cafe and free exhibitions. Upon entry, a 60-ft atrium lobby directs views upward, enticing further exploration with colorful, interactive exhibitions and multi-story, accessible climbing structures.

Recognizing the multigenerational nature of families in the region, the architects, in conjunction with esteemed exhibition designers at Gyroscope and local Exigo Architecture, ensured that the building, as well as all exhibitions, will be accessible to visitors of all ages, mobility levels, and linguistic backgrounds. The museum will present interpretive text in both English and Spanish and run an exhibition that interacts directly with La Rodadora, a children’s museum in Juárez.

Sophie Aliece Hollis is TA’s editorial intern.

Leave a Comment