by Jo Baker
Creating dramatic architecture can be challenging in an icy climate where people prioritize function over flamboyance and where the natural environment can satisfy their desire for beauty. The state of Alaska has breathtaking vistas of mountains, snow flats, and the dancing aurora borealis, but its urban landscapes have tended to remain resilient and simple.
Now, in a collaboration between Minnesota firm Hammel, Green and Abrahamson Architects (HGA) and Fairbanks architecture/ engineering firm GDM, Inc., the expansion of the University of Alaska's Museum of the North has departed from this tradition, creating hardy architecture that is also inspiring, and capturing international attention.
The change began when museum curator Aldona Jonaitis arrived in Fairbanks from New York in the early 1990s. The Museum of the North was then housed in a modest, boxy structure designed by HOK in the 1970s.
The museum had been founded early in the century to showcase a collection of archaeological and paleontological specimens. By the time Jonaitis arrived, it boasted the world's most extensive collection of Alaskan art and artifacts and was close to the bursting point.
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University of Alaska's Museum of the North, in Fairbanks, expansion by HGA and GDM.
Photo: Nic Lehoux Photography
The form was inspired by mountains and glaciers.
Photo: Kerynn Fisher/UA Museum of the North
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