The Children’s Museum & Theater of Maine has been steadily growing both its visitor-ship and educational offerings for more than 25 years. But, the physical limitations of their former downtown Portland space restricted their ability to expand their programming and services for patrons and the community. The new home for this esteemed institution is designed to support their dynamic and growing programs. The new building includes a 100-seat theatre, flexible exhibits, education and workshop space, meeting rooms and offices, and an outdoor play area set within the landscape.
Located along the Fore River, west of downtown, the building and site engage the riverfront and burgeoning Thompson’s Point. The design of the new space incorporates visual and programmatic connections to Maine culture and creates an emerging and relaxing atmosphere for visitors of all ages.
The overall size, scale, and shape of the building is inspired by the industrial heritage of Thompson’s Point, shipping and railroad. Its proportions, rhythm, and solid-to-void ratio are compatible with the warehouses and sheds on the point, and steel cross-bracing is a feature of the new building.
The building is organized in a way that is welcoming and relaxing for adults, exciting for kids, and east to navigate for both. That begins with a spacious, 20-foot high lobby, surrounded by floor to ceiling glass that connects the indoors and outdoors while bringing in abundant natural light.
Sustainable strategies employed in the project included first addressing the challenges of an old brownfield site (an old railway repair yard). The project pre-loaded the building site to compact the existing soil and minimize off-site removal. Other sustainable design strategies include a well-insulated enclosure, low-wattage LED lighting throughout the building, a VRF (Variable Refrigeration Flow) system installed for heating and cooling, and a radiant floor in the main lobby. Healthier building materials and finishes were specified for this place where children and families will gather. Additionally, the site is near local and regional public transportation.
(c) Trent Bell Photography