No. 1 . 17 May 2000 
ArchitectureWeek
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COSMIC TRIP : THE ROSE CENTER FOR EARTH AND SPACE

by Michael J. Crosbie, Contributing Editor

On an island crammed with so many buildings that one more isn't likely to make a difference one way or the other, the new Rose Center for Earth and Space has already made its mark. Designed by Polshek Partnership Architects, this latest addition to New York's American Museum of Natural History has created a level of excitement in a city where architectural pundits (who wear their weary cynicism proudly) have anointed it the most significant piece of architecture in, well...a pretty long time.

Such a buzz, of course, raises the visitor's expectations, but still I was pleasantly surprised. The $210 million Rose Center — which includes a host of new exhibits about the cosmos near and far — stands in striking contrast to its neighbor, the venerable Natural History museum. The Rose Center is a crystal cube, a machine in a garden, a welcoming space station for both terrestrials and aliens (that's anyone from outside Manhattan).

A crystal cube, a machine in a garden, a welcoming space station

Architect James Stewart Polshek describes the design concept for the Rose Center as a "cosmic cathedral," in which the spatial experience would awe and inspire visitors with an understanding of the wonders of our universe and the power of scientific inquiry, "in much the same way that the monumental spaces of medieval cathedrals inspired visiting pilgrims."

As those sacred buildings attempted to praise God while instructing the masses in holy doctrine, so the Rose Center prompts the jaw to drop as one enters a two million-cubic-foot sanctuary to the stars, rendered in sleek, gleaming surfaces: shimmering walls of plate glass; glinting stainless steel; polished and twinkling stone floors. The transparent walls are a metaphor for the revelation that science offers. We started out in dark caves peering out at a night sky that terrified us; we arrive at a glowing glass box that promises to explain it all.

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