Design Development Begins on Kidzu Children's Museum in Chapel Hill

Top Quote Architect Frank Harmon, FAIA, will hold a series of workshops to gather community input. End Quote
  • Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC (1888PressRelease) September 14, 2012 - Design workshops begin this week on the larger, permanent home for Kidzu Children's Museum in Chapel Hill, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, to be designed by the multi-award-winning architectural firm Frank Harmon Architect PA in Raleigh. The design team includes two other nationally acclaimed design firms: The Portico Group from Seattle Washington and MIG from Berkeley California.

    The new, larger museum will be built atop the Wallace Plaza rooftop parking deck between East Rosemary and East Franklin streets in downtown Chapel Hill.

    Founded on the premise that early learning experiences are critical to later life success, and that children learn best through play, Kidzu is currently located in University Square at 123-B West Franklin Street. Since it opened in 2006, the museum has welcomed 175,000 vistors. In 2009, the Town of Chapel Hill gave Kidzu a 99-year lease for the parking deck roof site for $1 per year as a historic public-nonprofit partnership. On this site, Kidzu will be able to increase the size of its facility substantially, both inside and out, with ample room for future growth.

    Frank Harmon's firm is well known for its modern, sustainable, and regionally appropriate designs for educational purposes, such as the Walnut Creek Wetlands Park in Raleigh and the Children's Nature Zoo at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. And as he did with those projects, Harmon will facilitate a series of design workshops, beginning this week, so that museum staff and community members from a wide range of backgrounds - including children -- have opportunities for input.

    The Harmon/Portico/MIG team is now challenged with accommodating a variety of design imperatives. They are to create:

    An iconic facility that attracts visitors, reflects Kidzu's identity as a playful, educational institution, and serves as a centerpiece for downtown Chapel Hill.

    A museum-as-educational-tool -- an environment that not only facilitates learning but also serves as a teaching tool, sharing lessons about design, engineering, art, environmental stewardship, history, culture and other relevant topics.

    Space with abundant creativity, incorporating works of art and a wide range of creative elements.

    A sustainable building that follows LEED standards and incorporates lessons about green design and sustainability.

    A healthy environment for visitors that inspires physical activity and other healthy habits.

    Connections to nature, both inside and out, through the use of natural light, natural materials, an abundance of plants, water elements, and related natural components.

    A flexible environment (building, exhibits and site) to allow the museum to serve as many functions as possible and to meet unanticipated future needs.

    A "living museum" that can evolve over time by combining flexibility, design for change, and the use of natural elements.

    An environment that complements and relates to the historic surroundings, while also responding to the future in its design and function.

    A playful and engaging environment designed with the needs of children in mind that also feels welcoming to adults, who comprise half of Kidzu's visitors. The museum should be whimsical and playful and appealing to adults.

    The Board of Directors anticipates completion of the new museum by 2015. For more information on Kidzu Children's Museum, go to

    For more information on Frank Harmon Architect PA, visit

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