Crystal Bridges is making way for a four-acre community playscape called Convergence and a parking deck with programmable space on the southeast side of Crystal Bridges’ campus.
Convergence, a collaborative project by the Amazeum and Crystal Bridges, will be for visitors of all ages and abilities, while the parking structure with program and engagement spaces will serve the growing needs in Northwest Arkansas.
“For nearly a decade, Crystal Bridges has offered a place to enjoy a unique blend of art, nature, and architecture on our 120 acres of beautiful Ozark forest,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity & inclusion officer, Crystal Bridges. “As Northwest Arkansas increases access to quality-of-life amenities, we are excited to activate our grounds in new ways. Working with the Scott Family Amazeum, Marlon Blackwell Architects, and Studio Bryan Hanes, we are creating a more dynamic, cultural ecosystem on our campus that expands art, nature, architecture, and play.”
Convergence will be a robust, outdoor, family play space inspired by arts, science, nature, and design, inclusive for guests of all ages. The space will invite visitors to step off the trail and into a park that uses the natural surroundings to engage the senses with interactive elements and water features that mimic the Ozark landscape.
The design for this project is funded by the Walton Family Foundation’s Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program which promotes the highest level of design for future public buildings and spaces in the region.
Still in the schematic design phase, this project combines the expertise of Crystal Bridges and the Amazeum to create a free, public place to interact with art and nature through play. The timeline is still in development and will be shared at a later date.
“We are excited to share the vision of this community play space that we’ve worked on in collaboration with Crystal Bridges and the Design Excellence winner, Studio Bryan Hanes,” said Sam Dean, executive director of the Amazeum. “This unique partnership brings together two different cultural institutions, both passionately interested in creativity, curiosity, and pushing the boundaries of inquiry that allow people to be explorers in nature while actively learning about the many intersections of art, science, and nature.”
A new multi-use, six-story parking structure and program space designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects will provide 800 (free) parking spots for Crystal Bridges’ future growth, as well as Convergence, Amazeum, trail visitors, and expanded cultural amenities planned in the area. According to a recent Walton Family Foundation report, the region reported a 10 percent increase in cycling and a two percent increase in pedestrian activity on the trails in the last two years.
Architect Marlon Blackwell has been instrumental in key projects at Crystal Bridges, including designing the Museum Store, the servery for the restaurant Eleven, and the Coffee Bar. Earlier this year, the American Institute of Architects announced that Blackwell was awarded the 2020 AIA Gold Medal, the organization’s highest honor.
The structure will also include a proscenium with two levels of program and engagement space on the west side of the parking deck, as well as public restrooms and more. Construction will begin in spring 2021 on the east side of the museum’s campus, north of the Amazeum, with an estimated completion date of fall 2022. The team is working to create a system of entrances, exits, and pedestrian crossings that make the design functional and aesthetically pleasing, blending the building into the natural setting.
The landscape architect for the parking deck is Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture, whose design aspires to integrate the structure into the forest with indigenous plants and trees lining the perimeter that help extend the discovery of art and nature.
“Through the design process, we were thinking about architecture’s role in presenting a space for community,” said Blackwell. “This is more than a parking structure. It is an extended threshold to the Crystal Bridges Campus and provides an event stage for a variety of outdoor programs and activities focused on art and nature.”