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Water + Life Museum and Campus


The Water and Life Museums are born of the construction of Diamond Valley Lake (DVL), the largest man-made water storage lake in North America.
Set in the semi-arid Southern California desert near Hemet, DVL is an integral part of the state’s water infrastructure. The lake provides a 6-month emergency supply of water for all of Southern California. Diamond Valley existed between 2 mountain ranges. Diamond Valley Lake was created by damming the Valley’s open ends with two 300‘ high dams. The East Dam is 2.5 miles long. The Dam, is made from rock mined from these mountains. The Museums sit near the base of the East Dam of DVL.

The construction of these dams is the largest earthwork project in American history.
The Water and Life Museums and campus celebrate the infrastructure of water and its central role in the evolution of life and development in California.

Water = Life
No Water = No Life.

The Museums are approximately half way between Hoover Dam and Los Angeles. They draw inspiration from the honorific architecture of Gordon Kaufman, Parker Dam, its pump houses, and the serial turbines and machinery that bring us water.
The design aims to place beauty and sustainability — an inseparable couplet — at the center of its agenda as an environmental showcase.


Iconic Awards, Public Architecture with Distinction, German Design Council, 2016
Honor Award for Excellence in Design, American Institute of Architects - California Council, 2009
Green Good Design Award, Chicago Athenaeum, 2009
Merit Award for Savings by Design, American Institute of Architects - California Council, 2008
Honor Award for Excellence in Design, American Institute of Architects - Los Angeles, 2008

American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum, 2008
LEED Platinum Certification, United States Green Building Council, 2008
Honor Award, United States Green Building Council Design Awards, 2008
Honor Award for Excellence in Design, American Institute of Architects - Pasadena Foothill Council, 2007
Gold Nugget Grand Award for Excellence and Value for the Best Sustainable Commercial Project, Pacific Coast Builders Conference, 2007
Merit Award for Best Public/Private Special Use Facility, Pacific Coast Builders Conference, 2007
Beyond Green High Performance Building Award, Sustainable Building Industry Council, 2007


Hemet, CA


Western Center Community Foundation

Cost & Scope

$36 million; 15 acres campus, 2 museums – 70,000 sq. ft.

Key Personnel

Mark Gangi, Gangi Architects – Lehrer + Gangi Design Build Team
Brent Nuttall, Nabih Youssef and Associates – Structural Enginner
Richard Davis, KPFF Consulting Engineers – Civil Engineer
Alan Locke, IBE Consulting Engineers, Inc. – Mechanical Engineer
Peter Gevorkian, Vector Delta Design Group Inc. – Electrical Engineer
Mia Lehrer + Associates – Landscape Architect


10 steel towers, 16’ wide, 46’ high achieve appropriate monumentality and intimacy. As primal, minimalist form, their simplicity projects them across a large open landscape, and complements the long, vast East Dam behind.
Major building mass is 24’ high,. The 8’ high datum unifies buildings horizontally, achieves intimacy while giving the building/loggia mass approporiate grandeur.
A 550-kilowatt rooftop solar-power array of 3,000 solar panels generates energy for 50% of museum building and campus needs.
Harness, celebrate, and control the fierce desert sun.
Courtyard lined with 2 photovoltaic covered loggia that provide a gracious and grand covered entry to the Museums.
LEED Platinum rating was achieved by extreme cooperation and partnering of the architect / builder /owner / engineers / landscape architect to develop a place of beauty and best management practices.


A Harsh Climate
Extreme temperature fluctuations: Daytime/Nighttime, Seasonally 300’ high, 2.5 mile long East Dam presents daunting scale, tough form: Achieving appropriate monumentality in such a vast setting 2 separate Boards of Directors, often dysfunctional. No environmental/sustainable mandate originally.


WATER – The Center for Water Education
The story of water, its conservation, and stewardship, is told here. An outcome of major infrastructural investment, its mission is to foster, convene, and promote study and action to preserve this precious resource.

LIFE – The Western Center for Archaeology & Paleontology
This Museum was created to study, house, and exhibit the Pleistocene-era mammoth–and other animal–remains. These were found while excavating 150’ into bedrock to gird the huge earthen dams built to create Diamond Valley Lake.