Central California History Museum Competition Studio / RCL
Project Team:   Kevin Gilson,   Margo Chase,   David Takacs,   Sookja Lee,   Joshua Stein

The history of a land and its people is woven from many stories. The Central California History Museum will be a reflection of these stories and the people who lived, worked, and built on the land. People will come to this museum to find their own family stories, to see the stories of others, and to experience the history that will come alive for them in these pathways, galleries, and gardens.

This building is uniquely suited to tell the tales of the land. The stories of local families and communities are etched on changeable glass panels that line the circulation pathways. The pathways connect to galleries that in turn open into gardens, fountains, and other pathways. Visually, the story panels can be seen overlapping galleries, gardens and other story panels. The visitor can follow the stories chronologically or explore in any order, according to taste.

Standing in the 37 foot high space of the first gallery, visitors can look up into the old courthouse cupola dramatically suspended above them. Each gallery space looks out onto its own outdoor garden, where visitors can relax in an intimate public setting. The galleries twist north to catch the indirect sunlight and avoid the heat of the day. This twist recalls the shift of the streets of modern Fresno, from their original alignment with the railway to their present north south orientation.

The museum building encircles a shady central courtyard, which offers a connection to the farmerís market. Wooden louvers surround the courtyard and protect the interior pathways from the sun. The exterior walking paths shape the brick and glass museum building, carving away the corners of the traditional city block, and strengthening the interwoven forms of the galleries and gardens.

The experience of the museum resembles that of history itself, which seems to head in one direction and then change according to circumstance. This building embodies the idea that history is not a simple straight line, but a fabric woven from tales and adventures that tell the story of Central California.