The New Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) by Olson Kundig

Reimagining the Bay Area’s unique hub for childhood learning

The Bay Area Discovery Museum unveils its campus-wide renovation and new exhibitions designed by Seattle based design and architecture practice, Olson Kundig and led by Design Principal, Alan Maskin. BADM takes a unique approach to children's programming–resulting in experiential spaces that encompass art, science and education. Now completed, Olson Kundig’s master plan and renovation honored the architectural integrity of its historic location—Fort Baker in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Centering the museum’s child-focused mission, Olson Kundig’s renovation transformed the guest experience for visitors of all ages. 

Collaborating with early learning experts from BADM’s in-house research division, Olson Kundig reimagined the museum through five new permanent exhibitions that seamlessly incorporate the latest research into interactive activities and environments. Within the museum, children can learn about the world around them—and discover the impact of their own imagination, curiosity and innovation.

Transforming a Unique Space for Childhood Learning 

Bay Area Discovery Museum applies the latest research to develop essential early learning experiences that inspire and build creative problem-solving skills in children to transform the way they learn. Led by design principal Alan Maskin, Olson Kundig developed a suite of new exhibits for this children’s museum at historic Fort Baker in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, as well as a new campus master plan.

The campus-wide renovation maintains the architectural integrity of the historic site while transforming the visitor experience with new exhibits and an expanded footprint to meet the needs of BADM’s growing visitorship, which is currently at 350,000 annual visitors. The strategic plan re-purposes two campus buildings for the museum’s updated programs, as well as creating new research-backed permanent exhibits.

Children as the Experts of their Own Experiences 

Maskin and his team collaborated with early learning experts from BADM’s in-house research division to design and develop the new exhibits and activity spaces. Five new permanent exhibits will seamlessly incorporate the latest research into early childhood learning through interactive activities and environments. These include a new home for BADM’s Fab Lab, a maker space for children that includes

digital fabrication technologies like 3D printers; a new exhibit called “How Things Work” that teaches children systems thinking by cutting in half and removing the outer shell of household items; the Tot Spot, new landscape-themed rooms in the museum’s toddler- specific exhibits; and a new STEM classroom. Exterior additions include Gumnut Grove, for older children ages 5-10, and a replacement boat exhibit in Lookout Cove.

The design approach throughout the new exhibits avoids the over-saturation and loud colors often seen in spaces designed for children, allowing museum guests to bring their own imagination to these areas. This approach likewise introduces spaces that are appealing to the entire family, encouraging parents to engage alongside their children. A series of workshops throughout interior and exterior design and development process actively sought ideas and input from children, further advancing Maskin’s agenda of trusting children as the experts of their own experiences.

Design Principal Alan Maskin on Creating an Environment for Vital Learning 

“This project presented an incredible opportunity to align updated facility and exhibit design with the Bay Area Discovery Museum’s visionary educational theory and practices.”

–Alan Maskin, Design Principal

“We know that children are not exposed to design and engineering at an early enough age, so BADM’s mission to introduce STEM concepts through play and creative experiences is exciting. The museum builds on this idea by creating an environment where access to that vital learning is explicitly equitable and every visitor has the opportunity to integrate that type of thinking into their life—the potential for where that can lead these children is limitless.”

– Alan Maskin, Design Principal

BADM CEO Kelly McKinley on Captivating the Bay Area’s Youngest Residents 

“It was the opportunity of a lifetime to have design partners like Alan and Marlene on our project. They are insatiably curious about how children learn best. They understand the unmatched power of play and delight in transforming children’s understanding of their world. And they create, as a result, beautiful and imaginative environments that captivate young children, and their parents to boot.” 

– Kelly McKinley, CEO, Bay Area Discovery Museum

“Olson Kundig’s transformation of the BADM campus dramatically enhances our ability to serve the very youngest residents of the Bay Area and their caregivers – to build on our 30-year legacy of creating cutting-edge play-based learning experiences, and family memories that last a lifetime.” 

–Kelly McKinley, CEO, Bay Area Discovery Museum




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About Olson Kundig

Now in its sixth decade of practice, Olson Kundig is a collaborative design practice led by 14 principal/owners whose work includes private and multi-family residential, hospitality, cultural and museum projects, exhibition design, commercial and mixed-use design (including wineries and sports facilities), places of worship, interior design, product design and landscape design. With deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, the firm and its team of over 250 work with clients around the world.