Topaz Museum in Delta Utah, UT architecture design, Modern American public information centre images, US cultural facility

Topaz Museum in Delta, Utah

Contemporary Visitors Centre in USA design by Sparano + Mooney Architecture.

Sep 7, 2018

Design: Sparano + Mooney Architecture

Location: Delta, Utah, USA

Topaz Museum Building in Delta

Topaz Museum in Delta Utah

Photos by Brian Buroker and Sparano + Mooney Architecture

Topaz Museum Visitors Centre

The Topaz Museum, located in Delta, Utah, is an 8000 SF cultural facility that provides information and interpretation regarding the internment of more than 11,000 Japanese Americans that occurred during WWII at the nearby Topaz Internment Camp site. The team was able to deliver this project to the client on a compressed schedule (3 months for design and construction documents) and within a very tight budget ($135 SF).

The Museum includes a 3,700 SF exhibit space that tells the story of Topaz, organized in a chronological time-line of events. The exhibit includes interpretive panels with photography, cutting-edge computer technology installations, artifacts and art from the Camp, a historically accurate re-creation of one of the barracks, a scale model of the Camp, and historic perspectives, to engage and educate the public about the internment. In addition to the exhibit, the Museum provides an Education/Orientation auditorium that includes a film component; a 700 SF secure curatorial storage area that houses art, crafts, and artifacts from the Camp; and a 3,600 SF outdoor courtyard space which includes a restored Recreation Hall structure from the Camp.

Topaz Museum in Delta Utah

The location of the Topaz Museum along Delta’s Main Street, (Highway 50/6), provides maximum visibility for those traveling through. The Museum experience provides information and interpretation, preparing and encouraging visitors to tour the Topaz Internment Camp site, located approximately 16 miles northwest of the Museum. The camp was closed after WWII, and the buildings were sold by the government. In 2007, the site became a National Historic Landmark. Today, evidence of the camp includes gardens, a gridded road network, walkways, concrete foundations, gardens, artifacts, and other remnants.

Topaz Museum in Delta Utah Topaz Museum in Delta Utah

The parti for the building involved the linking of (5) key spaces along a single procession of light and dark spaces. The procession begins at the building Entry, with its low dark ceiling and walls of charred cypress cladding; then moves to a Lobby/Reception with high ceilings and bright white walls, flooded with soft northern light; next the visitor enters a transitional space moving through a gradient from light to dark; further on to the dark exhibit area, with limited natural light, and focused artificial light for the individual exhibits. The experience terminates with the outdoor courtyard bathed in natural light and views to the sky.

Project parameters and challenges included a small downtown site, an aggressive schedule, a very limited budget, and the sensitive and political topic of the internment.

The humble palette of materials for the building includes honed concrete masonry units referencing the relentless grid of the Camp, black-charred cypress wood cladding inspired by the Japanese shou-sugi-ban, and polished concrete flooring. The masonry provides a sense of permanence, while the materials together reference the austere materials used in the original buildings of Topaz; black tar-paper roof and walls over pine, masonite flooring, and untaped square-edge sheetrock.

One of the primary goals of the project was to provide a secure home for the Topaz Museum collection comprised of over 1,000 artifacts, preserving the collection for future generations, and securing the evidence as witness of the Camp’s existence.

Topaz Museum in Delta Utah

Topaz Museum, Delta – Building Information

Project size: 8000 ft2
Site size: 2023 sqm
Project Budget: $1080000
Completion date: 2014
Building levels: 1

Architect: Sparano + Mooney Architecture

Photography: Brian Buroker and Sparano + Mooney Architecture

Topaz Museum in Delta, Utah images / information received 070918

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