$51 million museum envisioned for Scottsdale - East Valley Tribune: News

$51 million museum envisioned for Scottsdale

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Posted: Friday, November 30, 2007 4:36 am | Updated: 6:28 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

There is finally a “face” to go with the name of a long-planned Scottsdale museum.

The preliminary drawings of the $51 million Museum of the West were unveiled Thursday.

“Reaction has ranged from awe to surprise,” Frank Jacobson, interim director of the museum, said of the vision that calls for a solar-powered 48,000-square-foot multilevel glass-and-steel structure encased in a tawny-colored slatted shell in the heart of Scottsdale’s downtown.

Having a visual interpretation of a museum that’s been bantered about by Scottsdale officials for 25 years has been a long time coming for Jacobson.

“Every time an image came in, we all got more excited. It became a reality,” Jacobson said, describing the reaction he and the museum’s 14-member board had upon seeing the conceptual designs from Jones Studio in Phoenix and BRC Imagination, a Burbank, Calif.-based exhibition design firm.

Jacobson defined 2007 as a banner year for the project, whose price tag jumped from an estimated $35 million to $51 million, due to projected 2009 construction cost estimates.

An additional $10 million would be spent on nonconstruction-related expenses, which include an endowment fund, start-up business costs and interest on pledges.

Plans for the museum, whose theme is “Find Yourself in the West,” picked up steam in the past year.

The design team set out to devise an architectural plan that would marry the museum’s concept of “Old West Meets New West.”

The museum’s organization formally incorporated and a search began for a CEO. In October, the museum’s board selected Michael Fox for the top position.

In September, the board retained BRC Imagination to create conceptuals for high-tech, experiential exhibits that will interactively trace the steps of people who helped shape the West and look at how the modern-day “West” in an urban metropolis is evolving.

The museum, which would be located on city-owned land along Marshall Way near First Street, will feature a number of components — including artwork, a Western experience theater and a great hall — in addition to interactive exhibits that may include “story circles” and narrated stories that visually come to life on large exhibit screens.

“The challenge was to create a meaningful and powerful external impression and offer an extraordinary and compelling experience internally,” said Ned O’Hearn, vice chairman of the museum’s board of trustees.

“The museum needs to be more than just objects under glass. We need to appeal to younger generations who want interactivity.”

The museum’s exterior concept pays homage to the Old West although using modern technology and materials, explained Neal Jones, president of Jones Studio.

The tawny-colored shell, Jones said, is reminiscent of old barns and railroad ties, and will provide shade for the steel-and-glass structure underneath.

Museum board members said the building has the potential to be a world-class attraction, both for its architectural and educational potential.

The challenge now, Jacobson said, is raising at least $40 million in private funds by the end of 2009 to make the project happen.

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