Massachusetts-based firm Bruner/Cott Architects completed a new 2787-m2 (30,000-sf) building for the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine in Portland, Maine.
Previously housed in the downtown Portland Arts District, the venue’s former physical limitations restricted ability to expand programming and services. Now located on Thompson’s Point, a riverside venue in Portland along the Fore River, the new structure is designed to support greater access and future growth.
The size, scale, and shape of the Museum & Theatre connect it to the industrial shipping and railroad heritage of its site. Its proportions, rhythm, and fenestration patterns are inspired by Thompson’s Point historic brick structures, and steel cross-bracing is a referential feature. The exterior is clad with colorful metal shingles arranged in a playful pattern inspired by those found in nature.
Inside, the building contains a 100-seat theater, experiential exhibits, a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classroom and makerspace, meeting rooms and offices, and an outdoor play area adjacent to the waterfront landscape.
A 6-m (20-ft) high entry lobby surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass welcomes visitors. Connecting the indoors and outdoors, it brings in natural light, setting the stage for a welcoming experience for caregivers and children. Easily navigable, the museum’s exhibit spaces incorporate visual and programmatic connections to Maine culture.
Sustainable strategies employed in the project first required addressing the challenges of a brownfield site (an old railway repair yard). Knowing this highly visible building site comprised fill soil expensive to remove and replace with structural soil, the project pre-loaded the building area to compact the soil and minimize offsite removal. Low wattage light-emitting diode (LED) luminaires were used throughout the building, and a variable refrigeration flow (VRF) system was installed for heating and cooling. These mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) measures save energy and operating costs since the entire system is more efficient than one simply meeting code. Additionally, the site is near local, regional, and international public transportation.
“A true collaboration between our firm and our client has produced a building embodying the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s mission and goals for its new venue, certain to attract visitors from near and far,” said Jason Forney, Bruner/Cott principal.