Providing a visual, spatial and textural link to the cultural heritage of the Pequot tribe, this museum and research center sits lightly in its environment. Its expressive, elemental forms create a powerful architectural identity that will forever represent, validate and celebrate the history of the Mashantucket Pequot nation.
The design emerged from opportunities presented by the surrounding landscape in concert with sustainable design principles and the Native American belief in the organic unity of man and nature.
The design addresses four primary considerations: to create a powerful, three-dimensional image that celebrates the history of the Mashantucket Pequot nation; to respect the ecological and archaeological value of the site; to acknowledge the tribe’s historic dependence on inland agricultural and aquatic zones; to honor the original Mystic Fort (the site of the 1637 massacre) as a symbol of the rebirth of the Mashantucket Pequot nation.
Each of three principal program elements is expressed formally in a manner that represents the spirit of its particular mission: an organic landform defines the museum volume; a linear bar element houses the research center; and a ceremonial gathering space occupies a dramatic, circular central volume. The building’s orientation to the cardinal directions and its entry in the east follow Native American traditions.
A tower mark marks the public entry and punctuates the otherwise horizontal extension of the complex, anchoring the composition; metaphorically, its skyward thrust symbolizes the resurgence of the tribe.
The building design organizes the extensive exhibits into quadrants, with multiple entry and exit points as well as indicators that orient the visitor in relationship to the gathering space.
Inspiration for details, materials and finishes was sought in the tribe’s culture. Material choices, such as the shell fragments embedded in the terrazzo flooring, the generous use of wood and the earth-toned accent colors were motivated by the Pequots’ close bond with their natural environment.
Gathering Space, 80,000-square-foot Permanent Exhibit Space, Changing Exhibit Galleries, 150,000 Volume Research Library, Childrens Library, Archeology/Botany Laboratory, 400-seat Mashantucket, Lecture Hall/Theater, Curatorial and Administrative Offices, Educational Program Offices and Classrooms, Collections Storage, Dining/Café, Gift Shop
Ennead Design Team
Susan T. Rodriguez, James S. Polshek, Timothy Hartung, Don Weinreich, Charles Griffith, James Sinks, Minsuk Cho, Denis Dambreville, Jihyon Kim, Amanda Martocchio, Lois Mate, David Shultis, Daniel Stube, Gary Anderson, Crystal Anderson, Anya Bokov, Charles Brainerd, Francesca Bucci, Victor Colom, Hoang Dang, Carlos Espinoza, Joseph Fleischer, Maria Gray, Price Harrison, Sally Leung, Lisa Mann, Tiffany Marr, Craig McIlhenny, Lisa Odyniec, Steven Peppas, Victor Rodriguez, James Slade, Kathleen Smith, Mark Thaler, Laurence Turner, Yuri Uceda, Daryl Wugalter
AIA National Honor Award for Architecture
Honor Award, AIA/Connecticut
NYACE Platinum Award for Excellence in Structural Design, New York Association of Consulting Engineers
Merit Award, AIA/New England Regional Design Awards Program
Merit Award, AIA/New York State
Innovative Design and Excellence in Architecture with Steel Award, AIA/American Institute of Steel Construction
Best of 1998 Award, New York Construction News
The Chicago Athenaeum 1998 American Architecture Award
The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture, Phaidon Press, 2004
Morgan, William. "The Light in the Forest: The Mashantucket Pequot Museum" (Art New England, 2/2001)
Glueck, Grace. "Art Review: Honoring the Spiritual at a Shrine to the Material" (The New York Times, 8/18/2000)
Barreneche, Raul A. "Spirit of Place" (Architecture, 7/1999)
Fromson, Brett D. "The Pequot Uprising" (The Washington Post, 6/21/1998)
Gamerman, Amy . "Pequot Museum: It Makes a Village" (The Wall Street Journal, 9/2/1998)
Larson, Kay. "Tribal Windfall: A Chance to Reopen History" (The New York Times, 7/26/1998)
Cramer, Ned. "Design of American Indian Museum Unveiled" (Architecture, 7/1996)
Alexander, Liane Lefevre and Richard Diamond. Architecture in North America since 1960. Little, Brown & Company, 1995
Brown, Cynthia. "The Vanished Native Americans" (The Nation, 10/11/1993)