La Brea Tar Pits Museum

Ice Age old bones, now in a bright modernist setting

The bright, contemporary transformation of the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum designed by Suisman Urban Design and KBDA elegantly updates the setting for the Ice Age old bones housed within the buildings. With a modest budget and shortened timeline, the team gave these very old bones a new setting—without constructing a new building.

To update the museum, which felt stuck in the 1970s, Suisman and KBDA used white paint over the black mullions on the four glass walls of the atrium to reflect the maximum amount of light into the space and allowing it to shine. Removing the brown, drab carpet and polishing the concrete floor gave a contemporary feel to the interior spaces. Dark gray and bright green paint were used on the building’s exterior with bold, new graphics. By radically trimming the overgrown vegetation in the museum’s hidden courtyard and creating a new gateway from the parking lot to the museum, the team unclogged museum access and increased visibility.