Nestled at the base of a natural ravine in the heart of the Ozark forest, Crystal Bridges was designed by architect Moshe Safdie to be both a complement and a counterpoint to the surrounding landscape. Rather than building at the edge of the ravine, overlooking the stream below, Safdie chose to let the landscape embrace the building, and make the springwater an integral part of the design. Two ponds were created with a series of weirs that manage the inflow from Town Branch Creek and nearby Crystal Spring. This natural spring, along with the striking glass and copper bridges that span the ponds, provided Crystal Bridges with its name.
The contrast of poured concrete walls and red cedar trim, brushed steel railings and soaring pine beams suggest the uniquely human ability both to manipulate and be inspired by our environment. The arched roofs of the bridges for which it is named give the Museum the aspect of a mammoth geological formation, born of the earth itself. This combination of nature and design is at the core of the Museum – both its physical form and the philosophy that guides it. A tribute to American culture and history through its art, Crystal Bridges is also a tribute to the land itself, and a celebration of how the landscape has helped to shape the character and history of America’s art and its people.
Moshe Safdie – The Architect of Crystal Bridges
Safdie was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1938. As a child, he moved with his family to Montreal, Canada, and later attended McGill University there. After graduating in 1961, Safdie moved to Philadelphia and apprenticed with legendary architect Louis Kahn, whose approach to the use of materials and light would influence Safdie’s own work. In 1967, Safdie returned to Montreal for Expo ’67 where he designed the critically acclaimed and groundbreaking urban housing project, Habitat. One year later, he established his design firm, now headquartered in Boston and Jerusalem. With the firm, Safdie has designed projects around the world, including museums, cultural centers, libraries, hotels, and airports.
Throughout the museum, Safdie’s design gently reminds visitors of the building’s beautiful natural setting. Construction materials were chosen to complement the colors occurring in the landscape: including natural woods, and copper roofs that oxidize over time, acquiring the brown patina of an old penny. Throughout the Museum, windowed interior reflection areas frame unique views of the landscape and provide an opportunity for guests to pause and refresh between galleries.