University of Minnesota News Service
Contact: Andria Waclawski, Bell Museum,, 612-624-7389; Patty Gibbs, Perkins + Will, 651-653-7302,

Largest commercial installation of Thermally Modified Wood at the new Bell Museum + Planetarium

WHAT: Installation begins today on the thermally modified white pine exterior of the new Bell Museum + Planetarium, which is currently under construction at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. Thermal modification is a process of heating wood to make it more durable. In this instance, the wood is responsibly forested white pine from Cass Lake, Minn that has been thermally modified at a kiln in Palisade, Minn. Approximately 40 percent of the Bell Museum’s exterior will consist of the treated wood, making it what is believed to be the largest commercial installation of thermally modified wood in the country.

As Minnesota’s official natural history museum, the Bell Museum seeks to preserve and showcase Minnesota’s diverse natural history. With its new facility, it will do this not only through its renowned dioramas and exhibits but also through its very construction. Perkins+Will designed the new building and worked closely with the University of Minnesota to identify and source appropriate natural resources to incorporate into the design, including the Cass County white pine, Iron Range steel and granite from Morton, Minn. This is a fascinating aspect of the Bell Museum’s design and construction and how it is supporting Minnesota’s natural resources as well as the local economy.

The new Bell Museum and Planetarium is expected to open in the summer of 2018.

WHERE: 2088 Larpenteur Avenue, St Paul MN 55108 (SW corner of Larpenteur and Cleveland Avenues).

WHEN: Beginning February 15, 2017

NOTE/RSVP: A short-term filming/photo option is available from an offsite location such as the fields south of the museum site (see Google Map).

On site exterior filming or photography must be pre-arranged via RSVP to Andria Waclawski, Bell Museum,, 612-624-7389. Interviews by request.


Project Partners

Bell Museum + Planetarium
Currently under construction in St. Paul, Minn., the Bell Museum and Planetarium is part of the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Sciences, and is driven by its mission to ignite curiosity and wonder, explore our connections to nature and the universe, and create a better future for our evolving world.

The University of Minnesota hired Perkins+Will’s Minneapolis office to design the new Bell Museum. The firm was responsible for identifying which Minnesota wood to use on the exterior and finding the right partners to ensure durability and longevity.

Natural Resources Research Institute
Located within the University of Minnesota Duluth, the NRRI works to leverage northern Minnesota’s natural resources to improve the area’s economy. The NRRI has conducted extensive research into thermally modified wood, contributing to technological advancements that are used throughout the world today.

Arbor Wood
Duluth, Minn.-based Arbor Wood is the company responsible for sourcing the exterior white pine and locating a Minnesota-based kiln where the wood could be thermally modified.

Cass Forest Products
Located in Aitkin County, Cass Forest Products is the sawmill that is harvesting and rough-sawing the white pine that will be used on the Museum’s exterior.

Superior Thermowood of Minnesota
Palisade, Minn.-based Superior Thermowood of Minnesota is the kiln that will be thermally modifying the white pine that will be used on the Museum's exterior. It is the only commercial kiln in Minnesota that thermally modifies wood.

Located in Palisade, Minn., Woodline is the sawmill that is finishing the thermally modified white pine to prepare it for installation.

St. Paul-based McGough is the construction company responsible for building the new Bell Museum and installing the thermally modified white pine.

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