Lord Foster Builds a Garden

John Hill
26. October 2017
Pamela and Robert B. Goergen Garden, as seen from the west (Image courtesy of Foster + Partners)

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, has unveiled new plans for the first public garden designed by Lord Norman Foster, part of the museum's building expansion being carried out by Foster + Partners.

Norton Museum of Art CEO Hope Alswang, alongisde Lord Foster and Foster + Partners' landscape architect Neil Bancroft, presented the project this morning at the New York office of Foster + Partners. World-Architects attended, taking in their presentations and glancing at the models documenting the project, which consists of a renovation and expansion of the museum, and the creation of the adjacent garden on the site of an old parking lot and drive.

Pamela and Robert B. Goergen Garden at night, looking north toward the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Colonnade (Image courtesy of Foster + Partners)

Alswang started by pointing out she had wanted, among other things, a "museum in a garden rather than a museum in a parking lot." Foster delivered, even going so far as to turn the building expansion into a celebration of an existing Banyan tree on the west side of the museum. Furthermore, Foster's plan shifts the main entrance to the west. When built in the 1940s, the main entrance was located to the east on a formal axis leading to the nearby lagoon, but the museum's growth over time pushed the main entrance to the south and resulted in an entry sequence Foster described as "convoluted." Once the museum has its grand reopening in February 2019, visitors will enter the museum beneath a generous roof facing west, next to a new pool that will be home to Claus Oldenburg's giant typewriter eraser.

The Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Restaurant, looking west toward the garden (Image courtesy of Foster + Partners)

The public garden designed by Foster + Partners is located to the south of museum, alongside a row of landmarked houses owned by the museum. A new gallery and restaurant on this side will face the garden through full-height glass walls, enticing visitors to eat outside and stroll the garden to look at more art.

Bancroft explained that the experience of the garden is "ultimately all about light." This led him to select such trees as West Indian Mahogany, Gumbo Limbo, and Falst Tamarind – trees that will provide shade and dappled light through their canopies. The garden design has preserved 69 existing trees in place, relocated 66 trees, and planted 82 new trees, the last accommodated in part by an on-site nursery. Mature trees were planted in many cases, so the museum and its visitors will not have to wait very long for relief from the South Florida sun.

Large-scale model of the Foster expansion showing the large roof, its opening around a large existing Banyan tree, and the Claus Oldenburg sculpture. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
Small-scale site model showing the addition fronting South Dixie Highway on the west and the garden, on the right, to the south of the museum. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
A view of the same model from the southeast showing the public garden alongside landmarked houses that the Norton Museum of Art owns and will use for artists in residence. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
A large-scale model of the garden showing how it has been designed as a series of outdoor rooms sized for the display of sculptures. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
One of the outdoor rooms seen from above. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
The outdoor rooms are connected by a walkway shaded by a row of West India Mahogany trees. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)
Lord Norman Foster, with the firm's Neil Bancroft, presented the project in the office of Foster + Partners on the 26th floor of Foster's Hearst Tower. (Photo: John Hill/World-Architects)

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