ANN AND JIM GOODNIGHT MUSEUM PARK | Raleigh, North Carolina | 2016
Architects: Civitas, Inc.
Client: North Carolina Museum of Art
General Contractor: Barnhill Contracting Company
Photographers: Art Howard, courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art and Civitas, Inc.
What started as an exercise in reimagining the future of the museum has transformed a former Raleigh, NC, prison site into an engaging experiment in extroverting the art museum into something altogether new. At a time when museums are challenged with remaining relevant in an age of info-distraction, the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) recognized its 164-acre campus as a rare asset – and opportunity to explore “the idea of what a museum can be in the 21st century,” says NCMA Director Lawrence Wheeler. Designed as an evolving work in progress, the new 25-acre Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park Expansion is an open invitation to community. The multi-layered design reinvents the traditional interior gallery experience outdoors, connecting new and more diverse audiences in a joyful free-ranging exploration of art and nature. At the same time, it fosters social healing for the site’s grim past, from World War I tank training ground to 20th-century youth incarceration facility. A broad curvilinear promenade serves as transition from the Museum buildings’ more formal domain to the natural world, revealing a chain of informal outdoor spaces. A brick smokestack – a prison remnant – honors the site’s history while functioning as a reorientation point for visitors moving among the park’s topography. Details bringing the concept of “museum-quality” outdoors include the 800-foot-long Corten steel ridgeline, stainless steel and ipe-wood overlook decks and the 600-foot curving ipe bench that surrounds The Ellipse, a manicured central lawn. In the Wave Garden, more than 150,000 native plants create flowing color and texture in 20 mounded low-water gardens. Two lawns flanked by 10 raised and tilted gardens – the Parterre Lawn and Gardens – provide installation and event space. A 1,000-foot-long water quality band multitasks as sustainable storm water treatment device and a visual datum crossing the site. And a new entrance and dynamic street edge on busy Blue Ridge Road orchestrate glimpses of park and art. Artworks throughout the landscape charm and challenge. Two iconic steel sculptures by Mark di Suvero connect earth and sky; monumental mesh heads by Jaume Plensa surprise with delicate strength; and a Giuseppe Penone bronze elm tree cradling a massive boulder references the impact of human intervention in nature. “I think more than any other, this generation is getting to engage with fine art in an enthusiastic way,” says artist Hank Willis Thomas, whose benches shaped like cartoon speech bubbles welcome active participation. The expansion design “unifies the campus with this crispness and has rebranded in people’s imagination what the park is,” says Dan Gottlieb, NCMA director of planning, design and the Museum Park. “It opens up a framework for partnerships we’ve never dreamed of: REI has come to us and wants to do programming here.” As further proof of success, more than 25,000 people visited the Museum’s first public art installation in the new space, an 11-day exhibition featuring Amanda Parer’s giant illuminated, inflated rabbits, and connected beyond the physical space via some 100,000 social media impressions – including one in-the-moment tweet declaring, “this feels like home.”