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An Architectural Day Itinerary at Crystal Bridges

The architecture at Crystal Bridges is as stunning and inspiring as the art and nature it offers. From the nature-centric structure of the museum itself, located in a natural Ozark ravine, to the architectural engagements around the museum such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House and our new outdoor architecture exhibition (Architecture at Home), one could spend an entire day focused on architecture at the museum.

Here, we’ve developed a day itinerary for architecture enthusiasts or visitors who want to experience a different side of the museum, one that showcases how architecture intersects naturally with art and nature at Crystal Bridges.


10-11 am: Visit the Architecture at Home exhibition


an outdoor walking path featuring a panel with information about Architecture at Home, an outdoor architecture exhibition
Photo by Stephen Ironside.

Architecture at Home, Crystal Bridges’ outdoor architecture exhibition, is located along the Orchard Trail as you make your way to the main entrance of the museum. The exhibition brings together five prototypes for homes to spark a dialogue about contemporary housing. Through research, interviews, and innovative thinking, five architecture firms based across the Americas designed and fabricated 500 square-foot prototypes for a contemporary house which visitors can enter and explore.

Anchored by R. Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome, a prototype for an experimental home, the forms and materials of the five structures articulate the many ways in which we could live. Visitors can enter and explore these immersive, domestic prototypes, and interpretive elements focus on use of materials, scale, form, light, and interaction with the landscape.

Architecture at Home is free for all to view.


11 am-12:30 pm: Take a lunch break and admire architecture at the Museum Store and Eleven


Museum Store Designed by Marlon Blackwell

Once you make your way down to the museum, stop by the Museum Store located in the Garrison Lobby, to admire the unique architecture and perhaps find a special gift. Architect Marlon Blackwell (a distinguished professor at the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design at the University of Arkansas) designed the store to be an organic complement to the museum’s natural setting and distinctive architecture. Under a living green roof, the interior ceiling and walls are lined with undulating cherrywood ribs that mimic the fluting on the underside of a mushroom.

Offering delicious cuisine and stunning architecture with floor-to-ceiling glass window view of the nature surrounding the museum, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The lunch menu includes the popular Eleven Burger, a Rainbow Chard Melt, Shrimp & Grits, and seasonal salads. Lunch service is from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.


1-2 pm (on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays): Drop into an Architecture Tour


Staff member Carol Roberts leads a tour group at the Frank Lloyd Wright House
Carol leads a tour group.

On Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays, join a Museum Guide to learn more about the architecture of Crystal Bridges. This hour-long Architecture Tour will introduce you to the unique features of Moshe Safdie’s design, and provide insights into some of the special challenges the museum’s site posed to engineers. Tours are held every Monday, Thursday, and Sunday at 1 p.m. Note: This is an indoor/outdoor tour, weather permitting.

Learn more about our tours.


Between 1-4 pm: Tour the Frank Lloyd Wright House


Frank Lloyd Wright Bachman-Wilson House
Frank Lloyd Wright Bachman-Wilson House

Known as the Bachman-Wilson House, this structure is an example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s classic Usonian architecture. The word “Usonian” was derived from an abbreviation of “United States of North America.” Wright created this term to describe a distinctly American style of residential architecture he developed during the Great Depression to be within the reach of the average middle-class American family.

Read On! The second floor of the Bachman-Wilson House is always closed to visitors; however, you can enjoy photographs of the second floor in this blog.

Tickets are required as capacity is limited, and can be reserved by phone (479) 657-2335, online, or at Guest Services in the Garrison Lobby.

Learn more about tour options here.


2-3:30 pm (on Fridays): Take a guided tour of Architecture at Home


Two people walk along a paved trail lined with trees and grass. A small and angular pink house and other structures are visible among the trees ahead of them.
Architecture at Home along the Orchard Trail. Photo by Stephen Ironside.

If you’re at the museum on a Friday, join an Outdoor Guide to explore the Architecture at Home exhibition. Guides will share information about the structures and encourage discussion around how architecture impacts our lives, what makes a house a home, and the artistry of building and shelter. The tour lasts 90 minutes and is mostly outdoors along accessible trails. 

Free, no tickets required. Check in with the Guide in the Garrison Lobby to join the tour.


3-4 pm: Take a walk around the grounds

Admire different angles and elements of the building as you take a walk around the grounds. Crystal Bridges was designed by internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie, who envisioned a building that would complement the surrounding Ozark landscape. Here are just a few features:


the museum's entrance columns framed by surrounding orange and brown trees in the fall

The spacing and rhythm of the colonnade at the museum’s main entrance is repeated throughout the structure: in the columns in the Garrison Lobby, the windows lining the Great Hall Corridor, and the copper banding of the roofs. This rhythm of vertical lines references the columns found in classical architecture.


Crystal Bridges architecture

More than 184,000 pounds of copper cover the museum’s roofs. Bright as a new penny when first installed, the copper has weathered naturally over time, darkening to a deep brown.


The Tulip Tree Shelter
The Tulip Tree Shelter.

The roof of the Great Hall is wider than those of the bridges. To ensure this construction would work, a prototype of a one-quarter section of the roof was built. This structure later became the Tulip Tree Shelter, which guests can visit along the Tulip Trail and get a close look at the glue-laminate beams seen throughout the museum.


4-6 pm: Enjoy architecture at the Momentary


image of the momentary building with fall leaves
The Momentary. Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.

The Momentary, located 1.5 miles south of Crystal Bridges (at 507 SE E St.), is a perfect example of an adaptive reuse design. Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects and Lead Project Architect Calli Verkamp, alumna of the University of Arkansas, led the transformation of the 63,000-square-foot decommissioned cheese factory into a contemporary art space.

The architectural process for the Momentary only added elements to the building that would support the new purpose of the space. The new additions use contemporary materials and construction methods to differentiate themselves from the existing building.

You can end your architectural day trip here with a classy cocktail in the Tower Bar, which opens to the public at 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.


6-7:30 pm (on Thursdays): Take a Cocktail Tour


Drinks on a Tray

If you plan your visit for a Thursday, take advantage of one of our Cocktail Tours, an evening tour of the museum paired with specialty cocktails inspired by a chosen theme, many of which are focused on architecture. Tickets are required and space is limited, so be sure to grab your tickets in advance.