Glenstone Museum to Open Its Expansion in Late 2018

November 29, 2017
A rectangular concrete and glass strcuture is foregroudned by a pond with lilies and greenery.

Glenstone’s newest project includes new exhibition space, cafés, bookstore and expanded landscape.

Glenstone Museum today announced its expansion project will open in late 2018, increasing its visitor capacity from 25,000 to 100,000 per year. The project includes a new museum building known as the Pavilions, an arrival hall, entry pavilion, bookstore and two cafés totaling 240,000 square feet and an additional 130 acres of designed landscape with recently installed outdoor sculptures. The original museum building, the Gallery, will remain open and continue to host changing exhibitions.

“When we opened Glenstone in 2006, we hoped people would welcome the opportunity to enjoy extraordinary contemporary art, architecture and landscape as a unified experience, with no hurry, no crowding and no admission fee,” said Mitchell Rales, co-founder of Glenstone. “The response we received got stronger with each new exhibition and convinced us to carry out the larger plan we’d always had in mind. We have now doubled the area of Glenstone’s landscape, increased indoor exhibition space and ensured that a much larger selection of the collection will always be on view.”

The Pavilions offers 50,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, a nearly six-fold increase from the 9,000 square feet in the original museum building. It will feature single-artist installations as well as changing exhibitions. As part of the museum’s efforts to work directly with artists and estates to display the work as close to the artists’ intent as possible, Glenstone collaborated closely with the artists who will have rooms dedicated to their work. These artists include Michael Heizer, Charles Ray, On Kawara, Brice Marden and Cy Twombly.

The expansion was designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners and continues Glenstone’s relaxed, contemplative experience for visitors. It was designed in close collaboration with PWP Landscape Architecture to continue Glenstone’s commitment to the seamless integration of art, architecture and landscape. It includes restored streambeds, cisterns that can collect and reuse nearly 1 million gallons of water and an environmental center to show visitors how they can adopt sustainability practices in their own homes.

“We’ve been committed from the start to offering a totally unique museum experience, focused on directly engaging our visitors and encouraging them to experience the artwork on an individual level,” said Emily Wei Rales, co-founder and director of Glenstone. “We listen more than we speak and respond to each visitor’s interpretation of the art, rather than responding to what we expect to hear from them. At the same time, we’ve been continuing to build the collection. It’s been wonderful to work with artists such as Peter Fischli and Roni Horn on developing their exhibitions, to bring exceptional groups of work into the collection and especially to collaborate with Tom Phifer and Adam Greenspan of PWP on the expansion project. We can’t wait to share it with people, starting in 2018.”

The Raleses announced that the next show in the Gallery will be an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois’s work from the collection, opening in May 2018.

Art, Architecture and Landscape

All exhibitions at Glenstone are drawn from the museum’s collection, which includes works by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol. Although it contains works from the first half of the 20th century, the collection focuses on the period after World War II. The emphasis is on works of historic significance which challenged or changed accepted ideas of what art can be. More than 200 artists are represented in the collection, in many cases in exceptional depth.

The Pavilions expands and enhances the visitor experience at Glenstone, beginning with a new public entrance and parking grove that can accommodate more than 100 cars daily. Visitors take a short walk to the Arrival Hall where they can receive information about their visit and browse the small bookstore which will offer catalogs and postcards.

From the Arrival Hall, visitors take a seven- to 10-minute walk over a timber bridge and through a meadow where they will see the Pavilions for the first time, emerging from the landscape as seemingly individual buildings, and enter through the Entry Pavilion.

“You leave the world behind,” said Thomas Phifer about the trip to the Pavilions. “With every step, the everyday distractions drop away.”

Once inside the Pavilions, visitors descend to the main level where they walk along the glass-walled passage that looks onto an 18,000-square-foot water court and connects the exhibition spaces. At the time of the opening, eight of the rooms (including one that is open to the sky) will feature single-artist installations. Three rooms of varying size and proportion will provide space for more frequently rotating exhibitions. One room will contain no artwork but will offer a framed view of the landscape.

The exterior of each structure in the Pavilions is made of stacked blocks of cast concrete, individually poured to measure six feet long, a foot high and a foot deep. The blocks, made of cement and sand, were poured in a method that created slight variations in the light gray color and texture. The finish deliberately contrasts the smooth precision of the windows, which have been specially engineered using glass panels as large as nine feet by 30 feet, and are set flush into stainless steel mullions.

Natural lighting is a fundamental element of the design, with most rooms featuring large clerestories or oculi to provide balanced light from above. The natural light will change throughout the day and seasons, offering subtle variation to view the artworks. Artificial lighting will be kept to a minimum.

From the Pavilions, visitors continue on a short path that leads to the Gallery. Along the way is a freestanding café built of cedar, which will weather to a soft gray that echoes the color of the Pavilions’ exterior. A second café offering light refreshments will open near the Gallery.

In addition to new space for exhibitions, the expansion offers more room for outdoor sculptures including Horse and rider, 2014, a work by Charles Ray, whose work will also be featured inside the Pavilions. This installation adds to Glenstone’s current display of outdoor artwork, including the sound piece FOREST (for a thousand years…), 2012, by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, which was installed in August.

“Even though we had to dig into the knoll to embed the Pavilions, we carefully replaced the landscape afterward, so it’s exactly the way we found it,” said Tomas Phifer. “In a way, that’s the story of the whole project. The siting of the Pavilions, the natural movement through it of light and shadow, the sculpting of the forms and the honesty of the construction—these all aim to give the artworks a place to live that’s as permanent as the land itself.”

PWP Landscape Architecture has worked with Glenstone since 2003, partnering first with Charles Gwathmey and the Raleses on the design of the landscape around the Gallery. Since then, PWP has developed an integrated plan for the entire site, including the Pavilions, to transform the landscape into an immersive experience for visitors.

According to Adam Greenspan, Partner in Charge for PWP Landscape Architecture, much of the project has involved creating a sustainable landscape that is habitable by native fauna and that changes throughout the year, so that people can visit during different seasons and always have a fresh experience. Among the large-scale moves has been planting trees to connect woodlands on either side of the 230 acres into a continuous habitat for forest creatures, and returning a large area of pasture to the condition of a rolling meadow.

Working with the PWP plan, Glenstone is planting more than 8,000 trees of 55 native species across the grounds and developing more than 30 acres of pasture into sustainable meadows with a range of indigenous flora.

Just as important, Greenspan has explained, is to restore the visitors’ sense of time to something more natural. “We are changing the speed at which people experience their environment through the landscape design so that the art, architecture and nature come into focus,” he said.

The change begins on the road approaching the public entrance, where PWP planted native grasses under a unifying forest canopy, “to get you out of the ornamental plantings of suburban developments and into an experience that’s more rural,” according to Greenspan. The entry sequence leads through a wooded drive lined with native tulip trees to three gravel parking groves shaded by nuttall oaks, overcup oaks and plane trees. “It’s the antithesis of a parking lot. Visitors are parking within an ordered Maryland woodland,” Greenspan said.

“You come through an area of compression, crossing the narrow bridge and walking through a shaded, enclosed area of trees, and then emerge into the kind of grand, open space that simply doesn’t exist in most places around Washington,” said Mitchell Rales.

As the path toward the Pavilions continues, it curves and then straightens toward the entrance of the building.

At the core of the Pavilions, visitors enter the water court: a half-acre garden pond planted with more than 4,000 water lilies, irises and rushes. The floating landscape will attract varied species of insects and birds and other wildlife throughout the seasons.

The construction and landscape are slated for completion in late 2018.