This new museum houses a permanent collection as well as a continually rotating exhibit depicting the history of this area of Los Angeles County. The program includes a multi-purpose room and archival area, a curatorial office, and both interior and exterior exhibit spaces. Clerestory windows and focused views provide natural light to the galleries. Views of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains are incorporated into the exhibit as the historical is juxtaposed with the present. Relationships to the site and existing community center west of the museum are created through geometric and material references to the context.
The design was inspired through an in-depth analysis of the complex relationship between the historian who records the past and the museum visitor experiencing the present. Central to this relationship is the notion that history is understood through second and third generation sources. Since these sources all interpret history through their own biases, they act as filters which affect the original event. To understand history one must not only understand one’s own relationship to the event, but must also be aware of the historian’s relationship to that event. The design of the Arcadia Historical Museum seeks to heighten the visitor’s awareness of the existence of these filters.
The design process began with the development of a conceptual viewing apparatus, which explored the impact of filters on what and how an object is viewed. This construct was translated into an architecture that changes dramatically based on the position of the observer. When viewed at a right angle, the façade dissolves as one looks through the wood louver screen; at an oblique angle, the façade appears solid.
The idea extended into the development of the exhibit which assumed a hyper-flexible and democratic approach, incorporating changeable elements including chalkboards for changing texts, corkboard frames for rotating displays, and movable open display cases which transform the space by their location, and invite hands-on interaction with the collection.
Project Team: John P. Sparano, AIA and Anne G. Mooney (principals), Michael Atkinson, Matt Bean, Rene Berndt, Mahnaz Zahiry, Tomahisa Miayuchi (project team). Consultants: Melisa Keeler (exhibits/graphics), Moroko & Shwe (Mechanical Engineering), Felix Roth & Associates (Electrical Engineering), Koh & Associates (Structural Engineering), Civil Trans (Civil Engineering), Gil Flores (Landscape Architecture), Jo Drummond (Specifications)