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Vacation Planning 101: Safdie’s Riveting Museum Design in Arkansas?

FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2012

By Jill M. Speegle

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If you are in search of inspiration, culture, art and a dose of architectural magic, you may consider a trip to Bentonville, Ark., in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.

(Side note: I’m from Arkansas, so I might be just a shade biased.)


 Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

 All photos courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Inspired by its location, the museum features a unique harmony between art and nature.

But seriously, the recently opened Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a site worth seeing. I found the serenity of this place and its elements to be breathtaking and found myself saying, “I can’t believe this is in Arkansas” a number of times.

Inspired by its location, the museum features a unique harmony between art and nature.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The 217,000-square-foot facility sits on 120 acres of lush woodlands and is surrounded by winding urban trails that connect the site to Bentonville’s nearby historic downtown.

Moshe Safdie, the world-renowned architect and planner, designed the structure with its six copper-roofed “pavilions” around two ponds in a wooded Arkansas ravine. Galleries, a curatorial wing, a library, educational spaces, a cafe and a great hall bring this ravine to life.

According to the architect’s project overview, three of the pavilions abut the ponds and are sited so that they retain the hillside. Two pavilions span the pond while acting both as dams and bridges. One pavilion—the great hall—is set as a peninsula, connected to the mainland by a curving series of galleries.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Large curvilinear windows throughout the museum’s wings and walkways bring the outside indoors, and consistently reminded me of the surroundings.

Numerous walking trails and outdoor gathering areas, including an amphitheater garden and courtyard, weave about the design.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Inside Crystal Bridges you will find building materials from the region.

“Walls are architectural concrete with wood inlays, the roof is a system of laminated wood beams made of Arkansas white pine, and the vaulted and convex toroidal roofs clad with copper, which in time will develop a rich patina, appear as an extension of the surrounding flora,” the architect said.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The museum features an impressive array of American artwork, from colonial to contemporary, including Charles Willson Peale’s George Washington portrait (ca. 1780-1782), Norman Rockwell’s 1943 Rosie the Riveter, and 1985 Warhol portrait of Dolly Parton.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

The museum was founded and funded by Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. Admission is free.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Safdie’s recent portfolio also includes the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, in Kansas City, Mo., and the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore.


Jill M. Speegle

Jill Speegle is the Editor of Durability + Design News. She earned her B.A. in journalism and English as well as her J.D. from the University of Arkansas. In Sketches, Jill shares her thoughts on a number of topics that may be of interest to the D+D community, including architecture, interior design, green building, historic restoration, and whatever else catches her radar.



Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Color; Design; Moshe Sadfie; Museums

Comment from Stephen Bolling, (3/19/2012, 11:48 AM)

Ok, Arkansas is now officially forgiven for the monstrous Clinton Library that lifts itself above the natural environment. How this building literally allows the river to flow through it is inspired. Should be a nice attraction for the entire region including adjacent Missouri & Oklahoma.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (3/21/2012, 8:24 AM)

Lovely structure. Really nicely done. I hope the water elements work out better than Wright's "Fallingwater" also known as "Rising Mildew" to its first owner.

Comment from joy jeffery, (3/25/2012, 6:58 PM)

As a world traveler and a visitor of many world renown museums, Crystal Bridges is inspiring and as beautiful as any I have visited. So very proud to have it in my own backyard.

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