Revitalizing an iconic museum

Stephen & Peter Sachs Museum

Missouri Botanical Garden

St. Louis, MO

  • Art
  • Exhibit Space
  • Historic Preservation

Project Story

Widely considered one of the most historically significant buildings in the Midwest, the original museum opened its doors in 1859 - the same year the Garden opened - and housed the Garden's original library, herbarium and natural history specimens. Significant code and accessibility challenges forced the building to be closed to the public for over 30 years, but it remained an integral piece of the story of the Garden and of plant science in St. Louis. Following a multi-year capital campaign, Christner led an extensive restoration of the original building while carefully resolving the museum's accessibility challenges through a 2,000 square foot addition. The award-wining addition, a thoughtfully designed and meticulously detailed glass box provides a modern architectural response in direct dialogue with the historic museum.

  • Size

    9,000 SF (renovation + addition)

  • Status

    Completed 2018

  • Awards

    2019 AIA Central States Award for Architecture

  • 2019 AIA St. Louis Award for Craftsmanship

  • 2018 AIA St. Louis Award for Architecture

Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson, President of the Missouri Botanical Garden, championed the restoration of the museum since arriving at the Garden in 2010. His vision was for the building to become a place for the Garden to exhibit its art collection and global collection of plant-based crafts and host traveling exhibits and lectures; preserving Henry Shaw’s legacy and creating an educational venue with a deep connection to the Garden’s history.

The entire Garden is a National Historic Landmark, requiring close collaboration with the National Park Service during all design and construction. Further constraining the project was an adjacent site wall, constructed during the Civil War which required careful preservation and special consideration when excavating for the new addition. Throughout construction many unexpected discoveries were made including the discovery of hidden fresco paintings on a barrel vault ceiling while were eventually restored by specialty conservators.

Located adjacent to Henry Shaw’s home and mausoleum, the restored Stephen and Peter Sachs Museum completes the narrative of the extraordinary vision and contribution of Henry Shaw to the St. Louis community, the science of Botany, and the world of botanical gardens everywhere. The restoration preserves an important landmark and provides a new attraction for visitors from around the world to enjoy.


Designed with a contemporary use of stone, the two-story addition responds to the simplicity of the original building, but is also distinct. A glass volume creates a formal entry on the north façade while the south façade is comprised of a modern limestone finish. The project was executed with minimal disturbance to the original structure, only requiring the conversion of two existing windows to full doors to facilitate movement between buildings via a glass-enclosed connecting link. As a whole, the addition is simple, yet unique; providing much-needed access and facilities in a building that subtly complements the original historic structure.

The interior of the original, historic building was fully restored. The work included replicating the original painted ceiling, restoring Fresco portraits discovered during construction, and introducing contemporary lighting, as well as updated HVAC systems. The basement level was also finished to serve as an art gallery.

Services Provided