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Keeping it Green: Three Earth-Friendly Facts about Crystal Bridges

Photo by Tim Hursley

Photo by Tim Hursley

Since today is Earth Day, what better time to share the things that we’ve done at Crystal Bridges to help Mother Earth! Crystal Bridges welcomes all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. You can’t appreciate the beauty of nature without the nature, so here are three Earth-friendly facts about Crystal Bridges:

1. It’s a big structure with a little footprint. When Crystal Bridges was constructed, a seven-acre space in the ravine was cleared to make way for the building. To preserve the natural beauty of the grounds, the construction team cleared only a precise area. Roughly 200,000 cubic yards of earth and rock had to be blasted and removed to accommodate the ponds and structures, but with the help of vertical “nail walls” dozens of feet high, the impact to surrounding trees and natural woodland growth was kept to a minimum. The end result: a slim six-foot disturbance zone between the building and the surrounding forest.

An aerial view of the cleared Crystal Bridges site prior to construction.

An aerial view of the cleared Crystal Bridges site prior to construction.

Thelma and Louise in the early days of construction of the Museum's Great Hall Corridor.

Thelma and Louise in the early days of construction of the Museum’s Great Hall Corridor.

The slim disturbance zone is visible all around the structure, but nowhere more so than on the south end of the building, where an entire section of the building was redesigned to save two tulip trees: we call them “Thelma and Louise.” The trees were aptly named—they were living close to the edge. Alice Walton was reluctant to lose these elegant specimens, and asked architect Moshe Safdie to make slight adjustments to the shape of the corridor between the main and south lobbies in order to protect the pair. An arborist assisted the crew throughout the project, and when the dust settled, the ladies survived unharmed. They can be seen standing proud just east of the Great Hall. Thelma and Louise also hold a place of honor as the stars of Eleven restaurant’s logo.


2.     It may be smelly here on occasion, but the plants love it! The landscaped beds around Crystal Bridges’ 120-acre grounds are fertilized with our very own compost. The compost is made from grass, leaves, wood clippings, and herbaceous materials collected throughout the growing season. These items are combined with a daily helping of clean food scraps from Eleven—fruit, vegetables, bread, and coffee grounds.


At any given time, there are three piles of compost—one pile that is ready to use, one that is “cooking” for the year, and one that is being actively added to. The newer piles are turned weekly to encourage good airflow.

3.     Some of the things that can’t be recycled just get repurposed. In addition to recycling objects like glass, paper, plastic, cardboard, aluminum, batteries, lamps, and print cartridges, the Museum has recycled a less conventional material: wood. Many of the trees that were removed from the grounds during the construction process were used to create the wooden benches found throughout Crystal Bridges’ corridors and galleries. You may not be able to climb the tree that once stood where the galleries are now located, but you can still sit on it.

One of the benches at Crystal Bridges made from wood harvested from the site.

One of the benches at Crystal Bridges made from wood harvested from the site.

New projects keep turning into opportunities to reduce, reuse, and recycle here at Crystal Bridges. So, remember to do your part, and Happy Earth Day!

On Saturday, April 26, discover the beautiful trails and grounds at Crystal Bridges, and enjoy hands-on nature and art activities with your family as we celebrate Earth Day at the Museum. Don’t miss a special performance by Toucan Jam! Sponsored by Rockline Industries.

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