Herzog & de Meuron Collaborates with Piet Oudolf to Design the Calder Gardens in Philadephia
Herzog & de Meuron and landscape designer Piet Oudolf are collaborating to create Calder Gardens, which will house and display artworks by American sculptor Alexander Calder. Located between Vine Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, the 6,500 square meter site will house a two-story building, half of which is developed underground. Instead of developing the site as a typical museum, the team decided to transform it into a garden as an attractive alternative for the people of Philadelphia.
Form, color, and movement are the most obvious of many outstanding aspects of Calder’s Art. We wanted to therefore avoid rather than adopt the use of those as possible design elements when beginning to conceive an architecture for the presentation of his work. – Jacques Herzog
The process of design started with a dialogue with the client, who asked for a new type of place for experiencing art, “an interplay between art, architecture, and people”. This led the designers to choose to carve out the ground rather than build volumes above. Gradually the space grew into a sequence of different galleries. The path takes visitors through unexpected spaces, niches, and gardens, such as the quasi-galleries or open plan galleries, the sunken or vestige gardens. Besides typical spaces for the display of art, the design team understood every corner, stair, and corridor as an opportunity to place art and create a different experience.
Mies van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie Reopens with an Alexander Calder Exhibition
The Calder Garden is the first site wholly dedicated to Alexander Calder, a Philadelphia native artist whose moving sculptures, called “mobiles” by Marcel Duchamp, made him one of the best-known artists of the 20th century. According to the New York Times, the initiative for the gardens started when Alexander S.C. Rower, Calder’s grandson and president of the Calder Foundation, met with Piet Oudolf, the landscape designer famous for his work on the New York City’s High Line. The site was never intended to become a museum for Calder, but rather a space for wandering and introspection.
I see my gardens as living sculptures where change is constant. The site is like a canvas to work on and each plant has a personality that needs to work with the others. The composition of the garden is variable and will evolve with the seasons. For Calder Gardens, the horticultural design must also serve the artworks. I hope people will take time to stop and think here, fully experience these elements together, and have an emotional reaction that stays with them long after they visit. It’s not what you see, but what you feel. – Piet Oudolf
The project is expected to break ground in 2023 and is scheduled to open in early 2024.