Snøhetta has created a comprehensive grounds redesign for The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin. The new grounds initiative will unify and revitalize the museum campus across approximately 200,000 square feet, including two buildings and Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin. The project creates a new cultural nexus where Austin’s civic center meets the University of Texas campus.
The museum’s landscape vision is defined by a series of new gardens and entry points that knit the grounds together with the streetscape and campus. From Congress Avenue, visitors will now approach the courtyard under a canopy of dramatic petal sculptures which offer a threshold from the busy streetscape while framing Kelly’s Austin beyond.
A series of architectural additions work together with public shade sculptures and a new landscape design to give the Blanton Museum of Art a bold new presence that reflects its artistic direction. The Blanton’s courtyard currently forms a gateway where Congress Avenue, the city’s main north-south axis, meets the main pedestrian spine of the UT campus.
Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin holds a place of pride on the museum’s northern side, while the Texas State Capitol is directly visible to the south across Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard. Snøhetta’s design unifies the museum campus with the city’s prominent avenue through a choreography of planting, geometry and art.
Rising above the trees and plantings of the central Moody Patio gathering space, a canopy of petal sculptures creates a shaded microclimate with dappled light that follows the sun. The petals complement the museum and the Kelly chapel through a layering of geometry, landscape and light. Their curving outlines, inspired by the arched vaults of the loggia that outline the museum, help highlight views of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin and the Texas State Capitol.
Standing 40 feet tall, each petal is made of perforated panels and spans 30 feet in diameter. Together, they form a new front porch for Austin that reimagines the Blanton’s identity while celebrating the city’s art and culture.
The redesigned grounds will include a new site-specific mural by renowned Cuban-American abstract painter Carmen Herrera that was commissioned by the Blanton. It will be the first major public mural by Herrera. Sited on the interior wall under the Michener Gallery Building’s loggia, it will span the length of the building, with the museum’s entrance in the middle.
Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2021 and conclude by late 2022; the museum will remain open throughout.