MuseumLab™ at Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh named finalist in Learn by Design Competition at SXSW EDU 2020

MuseumLab™, a new museum for older youth and an expansion of Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, has been named one of five finalists in the SXSW EDU 2020’s Learn by Design competition, along with the project’s lead architect Koning Eizenberg Architecture of Santa Monica, CA.

The international competition honors imaginative and impactful approaches to the design of physical learning environments and how they impact teaching methods and learning outcomes. Spaces such as classrooms, libraries, museums and special exhibitions that help solve challenges in education, and the designers, educators and architects who create them, are eligible. The Learn by Design competition takes place at the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival in Austin, TX, being held March 13 – 22.

On March 10, Jane Werner, Executive Director of Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and Julie Eizenberg, Founding Principal of Koning Eizenberg Architecture, will present the project in a live pitch contest. Finalists will be judged by a panel of educators, designers, architects, administrators and industry experts on the following criteria: innovation, accessibility, effectiveness, practicality and impact.  The Learn by Design competition winner will be announced at the SXS EDU Competition Awards party that evening.

MuseumLab opened on April 27, 2019, in the first library commissioned by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the former Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny (c.1890.) The building sits adjacent to the Children’s Museum and had been vacant since a lightning strike in 2006.

The space was renovated by the Children’s Museum to create a space where kids and youth can have cutting-edge, in-depth experiences in art, technology and maker learning.

The creation of MuseumLab combines historic preservation, innovative new architecture and a unique collaboration among agencies and organizations dedicated to the revitalizing urban redevelopment in a historic, underserved area of Pittsburgh.

Manchester Academic Charter Middle School is located on MuseumLab’s second and third floors. In addition to their regular school day, students take classes in MuseumLab’s makerspace, participate in research on exhibit content and development and attend its afterschool program.

Other partner organizations who are on-site in MuseumLab or help create programs for the space include Allies for Children, SLB Radio Productions, Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center, Carnegie Mellon University Arts Management Program and the University of Pittsburgh Education Department.

The combined footprint of MuseumLab, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the adjacent Buhl Community Park, along with their partner organizations, has created the largest cultural campus for children in the country.
The renovation project to create MuseumLab revealed that much of its original architecture had been covered by a 1970s renovation – hiding soaring arches, banks of windows, mosaic tile floors and a stunning terra cotta entryway.

“Our lead architect, Koning Eizenberg Architecture, helped us see that we could restore these features to a state of “beautiful ruin,” not perfect but rich and evocative of the building’s history,” says Jane Werner, Executive Director of Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. “We even left some of the original Carnegie Steel beams exposed as a nod to the library’s benefactor.”

In keeping with the Children’s Museum’s commitment to sustainability, MuseumLab is on track for LEED Gold certification and to meet the standards for WELL Building and the Pittsburgh 2030 District initiative.  It is also the first building in the nation to receive certification in Innovative Solutions for Internal Design (isUD) from the University of Buffalo’s Center for Universal Design and Environmental Access.
The other Learn by Design competition finalists are Canyon View High School, DLR Group in Waddell, AZ, Dreamscapes Immersive Art Experience, Utah Arts Alliance in Salt Lake City, UT, The Cheryl and Philip Milstein Center for Teaching and Learning, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP in New York, NY, and The Living Lab, Rob Wellington Quigley Architects in San Diego, CA.

MuseumLab is located on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side at 6 Children’s Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. For hours, admission, exhibits, programs and more, please visit our website at or call (412) 322-5058.