Van Valkenburgh to Design Gardner's Garden

Museum in 1946 following a Japanese-inspired update. (Courtesy Gardner Museum)

The Monks Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1946, following a Japanese-inspired redesign. (Courtesy Gardner Museum)

“I don’t have time to read, because I trot about with the gardeners. And the little monk’s garden at Fenway Court is very dear too,” Isabella Stewart Gardner wrote to her art advisor Bernard Berenson in 1908.

The walled “monk’s garden” flanks the Gardner Museum‘s Venetian-style palazzo (the house originally known as Fenway Court that became today’s museum) and was first planted in 1903 in an Italianate-style with elegant evergreens running along the walls and pathways. In the 1940s museum director Morris Carter resdesigned the Monks Garden using a Japanese style plan but seeding it with New England wildflowers. For the garden’s last update in the 1970s, Sasaki Associates added bluestone pavers and wooden benches. And the recent addition to the Gardner campus by Renzo Piano included a repositioning of the museum’s main entrance, a move that gives the Monks Garden a much higher profile, warranting another facelift.

Today the museum announced that a search committee led by the Gardner’s consulting curator of landscape Charles Waldheim, architecture critic and consultant Robert Campbell, and the Gardner Museum director Director Anne Hawley had selected Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA conveniently has a Cambridge, MA office) to redesign the Monks Garden, which is expected to re-open to the public in 2013.

Site plan with the Monks Garden outlined in red. (Courtesy Gardner Museum)

Current site plan with the Monks Garden outlined in red. (Courtesy Gardner Museum)

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