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Cinnabar’s design/build approach helped fast-track production for new Age of Mammals exhibition at Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County


Related: Cinnabar’s work at California Academy of Sciences honored with 2010 SEGD Design Award / At the New California Academy of Sciences, Cinnabar’s Climate Change Exhibits Speak Up About State’s Environment and Future

Cinnabar Inc. helped realize the creative vision for the new, permanent, 7, 700sq ft Age of Mammals exhibition and rotating displays in the Haaga Family Rotunda Galleries that opened July 11 as part of the ongoing "NHM Next" $91 million, 82, 000 square foot transformation of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Brought onto the creative team by Simon Adlam (NHM director of exhibit production) just 10months out to collaborate in redesigning the exhibit systems, in addition to fabricating and producing them, Cinnabar implemented a "design/build" methodology to make the most of available time and resources, bringing the project in ahead of schedule. NHM’s Adlam brought together and led the team that included Cinnabar, graphic design firm KBDA, NHM curators, NHM research scientists and museum staff.

Cinnabar’s museum portfolio includes producing 35, 000 sq. ft. of exhibits for the lauded new California Academy of Sciences, recently honored with a SEGD Design Award & three IES Exhibit Lighting Design awards, as well as exhibit fabrication and production for recent exhibits at the Autry Museum and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Billed by NHM as "an exhibition "65 million years in the making, " Age of Mammals exemplifies the institution’s new way of presenting its collections and research in the context of big-picture issues such as climate change and evolution. The exhibition presents a total of 240 specimens, including 38 articulated mammal skeletons to illustrate NHM’s theme "Continents move. Climates change. Mammals evolve." The Rotunda displays were created to house rotating exhibits from NHM’s 35 million object collection, beginning with the current What On Earth? as well as the display of Charles Knight paintings located on the second level.

Engineering, scheduling and creative challenges met

The exhibit systems that Cinnabar provided include custom specimen cases, modular information rails and exhibit platforms integrated with large specimen mounts, audiovisual systems & mechanical interactives. For the Rotunda, Cinnabar built the interior portion of the exhibit cases including decorative display systems with graphics and custom specimen mounts (produced by ELY, Inc.) All are designed along clean, simple lines that complement the interior of the 1913 Beaux Arts building.

Part of the process for Cinnabar was helping to design and implement an exhibition system that would, from a structural engineering standpoint, facilitate these large, heavy displays in a 1913 era building, and satisfy current seismic and safety codes. To spare the floor and distribute the weight the exhibit structures are supported from steel studs welded to the main beams, floating the structures about one inch above the floor. Cinnabar also devised a system to anchor glazing to the front of the displays rather than rest it on the floor. 

Cinnabar CEO Jonathan Katz credits the design/build approach and Adlam’s leadership for the success of the project. "NHM’s new exhibitions are an outstanding example of what this collaborative approach can achieve, " says Katz. "Design/build is the new warp-speed project production model of the 21st century, and NHM’s new exhibitions are an excellent example of what can be accomplished – how a team can work on an accelerated schedule to fulfill the vision without compromising quality. Concerns are addressed and resolved jointly and quickly, from structural engineering to the choice of colors and finishes. Creative problem solving, teamwork and leadership are key, and the cost savings are truly significant."

About Cinnabar

Cinnabar Inc. is a company of designers, artisan builders and producers creating unique experiences for the museum, entertainment and cultural industries. Founded in 1982, Cinnabar California, Inc. is one of the entertainment industry’s leading production and fabrication companies, providing specialty fabrication for television, film and themed venues. In recent years, Cinnabar has been at the forefront of developments that have seen the integration of innovative new approaches to the process and production of museum exhibitions. 

Operating from a 30, 000 square foot production facility, Cinnabar is able to provide its clients a complete range of in-house design-build, project management, and manufacturing services. We offer interpretive planning, content development, exhibit design and development, graphic design, and specialty fabrication. Our skilled production teams are comprised of numerous artisans and specialists dedicated to producing projects to the highest standards. Cinnabar has established itself as a quality supplier of attractions, exhibits, and environments that require a high level of artistic achievement, technical excellence, and finished quality. 

Cinnabar is a licensed General Contractor in California and Nevada, and has held GC registration in other states on an as-needed basis. Our company has completed projects across the United States and in several countries overseas.

Recently, Cinnabar CEO Jonathan Katz brought his innovative creative approach, his green-building expertise, his efficient management style and his company to the production of 35, 000 sq. ft. of original, new exhibits and multimedia for the Kimball Museum of Natural History within the new California Academy of Sciences, a $488 million, 400, 000 sq. ft. facility which opened in September 2008. 

About the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County serves more than one million families and visitors annually, and is a national leader in research, exhibitions and education. The Museum was the first cultural institution in Los Angeles to open its doors to the public in 1913, and has amassed one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history – more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years. It is located at 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles.

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