Garden Design

For guests to the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, a contemporary begin

This text is a part of our newest Design particular part, about areas impressed by nature.

In 1992, when a gaggle of devoted horticulturists approached the philanthropists Fred and Lena Meijer to assist a botanic backyard within the couple’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich., they acquired the very best reply potential. The Meijers would certainly assist, however provided that the scope have been expanded to incorporate sculpture too.

Three years later, the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park was born and has since grown into an idyllic 158-acre campus the place about 780,000 guests a yr encounter surprising combos of artwork, structure and nature.

The park options greenhouses, indoor galleries, a Japanese backyard, English perennial gardens, an out of doors amphitheater and sculpture gardens. Works by artists together with Ai Wei Wei, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois, Yinka Shonibare and Auguste Rodin occupy “pure outside galleries,” amongst plantings designed by an in-house horticulture group.

As a part of a $115 million enlargement, the New York–based mostly structure studio led by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien just lately accomplished a 69,000-square-foot welcome heart to offer a smoother customer expertise and tie collectively the campus, which had advanced into an advert hoc assortment of buildings.

The low-slung welcome heart, which opens on July 1, is clad in muted Minnesota granite that comes alive with vibrant purple-and-black striations when moist. “The horizontal buildings and concrete partitions are a datum towards which the panorama could be seen,” Mr. Williams mentioned. “They each arrange and defer to the sculpture, actions and gardens.”

Within the entrance corridor, massive hanging planters assist body views out to the English perennial gardens, which have been redesigned to meld with the boundary established by the welcome heart’s structure. Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio, a panorama design agency in Vermont, labored carefully with the Williams-Tsien studio in addition to Meijer Gardens’ in-house horticulture and sculpture groups, to specify new hardscape and plantings, together with each manicured and wilder parts — a recent tackle conventional English gardens.

The roof of the constructing’s central backyard pavilion is made from three sculptural portals that seize gentle from the east, west and instantly overhead, casting beams that journey throughout the house over the day. Impressed by the Pantheon in Rome, the inside “is fashioned from quiet chambers of sunshine which might be all the time altering,” Ms. Tsien mentioned. “It’s a place each of the spirit and for individuals to assemble.”

The backyard pavilion partitions are composed of an set up, “Utopia,” that the Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa designed in collaboration with the architects. Every wall floor is a clean, elongated human face carved from blocks of Vietnamese white marble. In all, 315 distinctive items are made from the identical stone — a reference to the unity of the human race regardless of particular person variations.

As a result of Mr. Plensa conceived the work as a part of the partitions after general design had began, the architects tailored the concrete footings underneath the constructing to accommodate the added weight.

The architects additionally labored with the artist Michele Oka Doner to develop her 2009 sculpture for Meijer Gardens, “Beneath the Leafy Crown” — 13,000 sq. toes of inexperienced terrazzo flooring inlaid with bronze leaves and different flora from the Michigan forest.

Within the new ticketing space, felt wall tapestries impressed by Michigan skies cling above massive home windows, whereas a vibrant inexperienced customized rug with traces and tufted circles suggesting an aerial view of a backyard softens the expertise of the ticketing line. Each have been designed by Ms. Tsien.

Inclusivity has all the time been a precedence at Meijer Gardens. The Seashore Boys and Béla Fleck are among the many performers at this yr’s summer season live performance sequence, whereas a lot of the sculpture is by crowd pleasers just like the glass artist Dale Chihuly.

Backyard officers mentioned Fred Meijer insisted on surpassing accessibility requirements, as demonstrated by a miniature model of Nina Akamu’s 1999 bronze “The American Horse” that permits the visually impaired to really feel the sculpture. Mr. Williams and Ms. Tsien designed the panorama with out important grade modifications, eliminating the necessity for landings and handrails, in addition to stairs or steep ramps between buildings. The refined slopes enable each customer to make use of the identical paths for a similar expertise.

“These amenities are in excellent concord with our mission,” mentioned David S. Hooker, the gardens’ president and chief government, which is to welcome native Michiganders, worldwide artwork lovers and everybody in between.

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