The museum's expansion was designed by David Chipperfield, an internationally renowned, award-winning architect based in London. According to Chipperfield, the design is intended to encourage an appreciation of the museum's extraordinary natural surroundings.
The Anchorage Museum's new building was designed to qualify for certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Locally produced and recycled materials were used wherever possible, and the building's four levels and basement help minimize its footprint. Other environmentally friendly features include recycling facilities, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and employee showers and a bike rack to encourage alternative transportation.
Another key feature of the building is its shimmering glass façade, made up of more than 600 panels 4 feet wide and in varying heights. The 12-inch thick panels provide ultraviolet protection and are fitted with blinds to shield the museum's collections from sun damage.
Many factors were considered when designing the Anchorage Museum site. The building and landscape designers felt the site needed to create a bold presence, complement the building architecture, serve the museum's programming and provide respite from the adjacent streets.
The site features a 2-acre public common with benches, providing a place to have lunch or enjoy the outdoors. To fill out the rest of the site, the designers looked to an icon of the Southcentral Alaska landscape — deciduous birch tree forests. Birch trees were planted on a graduated grid that moves from dense spacing at the west end of the site to airy spacing near the new building. The result is a dramatic urban forest in the middle of the city.