• Image about Ross Perot
Trevor Paulhus

Dallas’ Perot Museum of Nature and Science sets a high bar for a new generation of museums.

“I never approached it as a beautiful object,” says famed architect Thom Mayne. “If people like it or don’t like it stylistically, well, I can’t please everybody. I’m much more interested in making something compelling and interesting.”

That’s just what Mayne and his California-?based firm, Morphosis Architects, have done — triumphantly and unforgettably — with the design of the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science slated to open Dec. 1 near downtown Dallas.

Designed as a large cube floating over a landscaped base, the 180,000-square-foot museum, wrapped in concrete panels that recall a limestone stream bed, includes its own 1-acre science park; an urban plaza; five floors of public space; six learning labs; a glass-enclosed, tubelike escalator that extends up the building’s exterior; and 11 permanent exhibition halls crowded with ingenious interactive features such as an earthquake simulator and the Shale ?Voyager, in which visitors “shrink” to microscopic size and go on a virtual exploration for natural gas.

Mayne’s startling creation has received worldwide press attention, in part due to the heavyweight reputation of Mayne himself, who in 2005 won the Pritzker Architecture Prize — architecture’s equivalent of an ?Oscar and/or the Nobel Prize. The ?Pritzker jury of experts referred to Mayne as “a product of the turbulent ’60s who has carried that rebellious attitude and fervent desire for change into his practice.”

THE PEROT MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE is located a mere 25 minutes from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. For more information,
visit www.perotmuseum.org

At first glance, such a background might seem to make Mayne a strange bedfellow for the $185 million Perot Museum, named in honor of Dallas billionaire and former presidential candidate Ross Perot and his wife, Margot. The close-cropped and sometimes pugnacious Perot is usually identified with conservative politics. But Perot, now 82, has done his share of rebelling. In 1992, running an unorthodox campaign against both Democrats and Republicans, he drew more than 19 million votes in his presidential bid. And long before he sought the White House, Perot gained national fame when he organized a bold plan to rescue two of his employees from an Iranian prison. (The story of the 1979 mission was told in Ken Follett’s best-selling book On Wings of Eagles, later a TV miniseries in which Perot was played by actor Richard Crenna.)

Perot is also a high-tech pioneer who made his fortune with companies like Electronic Data Systems and Perot Systems. He once invested $20 million in Steve Jobs’ NeXT Computer, and he’s long been a passionate advocate for better education in the so-called STEM courses — science, technology, engineering and math. That’s why his five children, including Ross Perot Jr., former owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, donated $50 million to the museum effort in 2008.