ARCHITECTURAL DREAMING - A recent high school graduate from Minnesota wrote to us this summer, wondering if we would be interested in photos of a model of the museum that she completed in 4th grade.
Olivia Urbanski grew up in Eden Prairie, Minnesota (a suburb of the Twin Cities area) and is now headed to Chicago to study at Loyola University. She remembers researching the building’s design and even meeting with the architect, Joan Sorano who is based in Minnesota. “A year later, I got to see the actual building as my family traveled to Alaska.”
We wanted to find out more about this delightful project. You can see her finished piece (top) and compare it to the architect’s model (middle) and a recent photo of the museum (bottom).
1) How did you hear about the museum? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. I was in 4th grade when my class began an architecture unit. We were studying all sorts of types and styles of architecture. Each student had to choose a building to replicate, and I wanted one that people had never even heard of.
In 2006, the museum had its grand opening, so I may have seen an image of it while looking on architecture sites online. Also, a local museum here in MN had Joan Soranno, the building’s architect, come and speak about the museum, so that definitely encouraged me. I was inspired that she was a female architect!
2) You mention visited Alaska. What was it like to learn about the architectural challenge of creating this building and then seeing it in person? When I chose this building, I had no idea how difficult it would be. It took me a ton of time and practice working with the materials to get an accurate representation of the museum’s characteristic curves. There were many different parts of the structure that were also difficult to fit together once completed individually. When I arrived at the museum, I was stunned by how huge it actually was. I had become so accustomed to working my play-house sized version that I almost forgot there was one for real people!
I definitely felt a special connection with the building. What surprised me most was the inside. While I had spent much time thinking about the outside of the building, I had never really put much thought into what was actually inside. I thought that the floor plan of the museum was wonderful and I enjoyed walking through the halls, seeing the structure from a different perspective.
3) How did the museum compare to the natural architecture of the mountains, rivers, and landscape of Alaska? I love Alaska. The nature there is so beautiful in its complex, yet simple, way. The museum’s exterior reminds me of an assortment of things. First, a whale, many of which I saw in Alaska. I think the building is an intriguing way to show respect for the animals in the surrounding environment. Second, the brilliant white color of the building, along with its odd contours, resembles glaciers. This makes the building seem to almost camouflage itself with its surrounding environment. I find the building to ebb and flow like nature.
4) Are you interested in pursuing architecture? I definitely went through a phase of wanting to become an architect and I still love looking at buildings and even designing my own! However, my interests have shifted and I’m focusing more on environmental issues and global awareness. I plan to major in Environmental Studies and International Relations while at Loyola University.
5) Are you coming back to Fairbanks? I would love to come back to Fairbanks and see the town once again. When I was there I was only 9 years old, so I think it would be very interesting to see the town and museum from an older/adult perspective.
6) What do you think we should do next with the building? In regards to the next phase for the museum, I think this would be a great opportunity for the building to become more environmentally friendly, whether that be through the use of wind or solar energy, or rain water accumulation/rain gardens, etc… I am not sure of how much the museum is already doing with environmental practices, but I didn’t see a link on the museum’s website, so I thought I’d mention it!
Thanks to Olivia for sharing her thoughts and experiences with us. We hope she comes back soon.