The Saint Louis Art Museum, located in the heart of Forest Park, is in the process of extension. The East Building designed by David Chipperfield introduces a new dimension by creating a kind of abstract pedestal in the historic building. The sculpture garden extends this pedestal and introduces an intermediate scale between the museum and the vast landscape.
The expansion of the St. Louis Art Museum and the garden are linked and combined to form a single layer. The sculpture garden and the entrance court are parts of this layer. Although their functions differ, they have a common language. From the park point of view, this layer will appear as a grove with informal limits, consistent with the nineteenth century landscape design of Forest Park. While approaching the building, this plant massing is gradually ordered into geometrical blocks to form regular outdoor rooms that extend the museum architecture of the nineteenth century to the outside.
Thus, when the trees have grown, a visitor that will explore this grove quietly organized in lines, will discover unexpected formal clearings. This is a forest sculpted into a set of outdoor rooms where pieces of art are installed. These rooms are not enclosed. They appear continuously one after the other in a game of masses and voids, orchestrating a set of concrete pedestals. These pedestals are architectural components of the garden that define places and uses, acting as large furniture items. Naturally, they are also pedestals for sculptures.
From the beginning of its design, curators and landscape architects have been associated with the composition of the garden. Indeed, the layout of pieces of art, outdoor rooms and pathways are closely interlinked.
Trees are selected for their ability to yeld a strong forested character and to be geometrically laid out. Like the carved afforestation in classic French gardens, there are hundreds of hornbeams, river birches, white birches, and some serviceberries laid out in dense orthogonal grids that extend the building structure.
This very young garden evokes some American modernist gardens like the famous Miller Garden. One will be able to tell them apart as the growth of dense trees reaches full height. An elementary component more in related to contemporary perception of the plant world.
Saint Louis Art Museum
Michel Desvigne Paysagiste
David Chipperfield architecte (mandataire)