Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

-AR-Bentonville

Skyspace – The Way of Color (2009)

On the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

James Turrell, Artist

600 Museum Way, Bentonville AR

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Just off the main path, on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, I came across  a pavilion built into the side of a gentle hill in a clearing. Of course I walked over to investigate. Was it a burial vault, an ancient culture’s sacrificial altar, or maybe the museum’s public toilets?

This pavilion is actually an art installation. The space created puts you in the exact position and the right mood to experience a very carefully and precisely framed perfect circular view of the sky. It is amazing how pristine and pure the sky looks without any trees, buildings, or horizon reference to complicate seeing just the beautiful hue of a small view of the sky. The circular space has a stone bench around the perimeter with a steeply angled back. This puts the viewer in the just the right position to look through the oculus. The neutral toned ceiling slopes slightly upward to the knife edge of the oculus revealing the blue sky. During the day it was actually quite a remarkable experience. It was quiet, cool and absent any distraction – until high in the sky an airplane flew across the blue disc, reminding me of the world outside.

I can only imagine what the experience is like at dawn and dusk, when the sky changes color, and the artist’s LED lights paint the ceiling with an ever-changing  light show. I was not able to experience this event during this trip. Based on the description of the light show, it might be worth another trip to Bentonville. Another excuse to stay in the 21c Museum Hotel again…

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Crystal Bridges Museum – Exterior (2011)

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Moshe Safdie, Architect

600 Museum Way, Bentonville AR 72712

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Visited April 27 & 28 2013

This museum is amazing in many ways. It is amazing that it is in a small town in northwest Arkansas. It is amazing that it is out in such a natural setting , spanning the river – twice, and amazing in it’s almost unbelievably difficult detailing. Moshe Safdie really put his heart into this elaborate design. This I do not find surprising. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Safdie while in Architecture School. He was one of the most interesting, modest and  quietly passionate architects I have met. You could just sense his confidence, quietly hidden in his modest demeaner.

This building was clearly a no expense spared building. The pavilions that span the river are complex cable structures, with wood arched beams, spaced with skylights between, and clad outside with copper is truly an amazing composition. The pavilions on the river banks have concave roofs, again with copper cladding. They are curved in plan and have walls with horizontal banding alternating between concrete and wood.  This is  actually a large collection of independent pavilions, and must have cost  more than most major city museums. You can walk the trails through the grounds of the museum, and there is a great overlook across the river  on the side of the hill where you can view the entire complex.

Don’t be deceived when you drive up from the main entrance. all you can see at the main entry is a modern colonnade. The rest of the building is 4 floors below in the river valley. Walking up to the entry, you see the rest of the complex sprawling beneath you. It is a great progression to the elevator, and then you take the elevator down to the ground level and start your walk through the galleries.

I highly recommend it for both the architecture and the collection. Check out my “Interiors” post for more details.

The Museum’s Website

The Architect’s Website

Dine in the Museum: Eleven at Crystal Bridges

Stay Nearby: 21c Museum Hotel – Bentonville

Dine Nearby: The Hive – Bentonville


Crystal Bridges Museum – Interior (2011)

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Moshe Safdie, Architect

600 Museum Way, Bentonville AR 72712

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Visited April 27 & 28 2013

The museum has an comprehensive collection of American Art arranged in a series of galleries by style. There are masterpieces and lesser known works of high quality spanning colonial times to today. These words are not meant to be “promotional” ( my blog is strictly an architect’s personal travel diary of sorts – I have not received any compensation for any of my posts).  The truth is I was surprised – if not somewhat shocked- at the Museum and it’s first class collection.

This museum is in northwest Arkansas, in the small town of Bentonville, within walking distance of the very Norman Rockwell like town square. The American artwork and the building that houses it was collected and funded by Alice Walton, the widow of the founder of Walmart. The museum’s brochure states ” it is one of the premier destination museums in the nation”, after my 2 day visit to the museum, I heartily agree.

Among those represented are Charles Wilson Peale, John Singer Sargent, Asher Durand, James McNeill Whistler, Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper, Maxfield Parrish, Winslow Homer, Charles Sheeler, Mary Cassatt, Josef Albers, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, The collection includes portraits as diverse as Gilbert Stewart’s George Washington, Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter, Warhol’s Dolly Parton ( see photos).

In Bentonville, Arkansas.

Check out my photos of the exterior

The Museum’s Website


21c Museum Hotel Bentonville (2013)

Deborah Berke Partners Architect

200 NE A Street, Bentonville AR 72712

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UPDATE: Winner of TripAdvisor ‘s Best “Hot New Hotel” in the US  (and 4th best “Hot New Hotel” in the World). Also, Conde Nast Traveler has it as the 11th Best Hotel in the United States, and 75th best hotel overall in the World!

Visited April 2013

The 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville is the first ground up new construction building for the company and the third location in this art museum boutique hotel concept. My initial impression as I approached the building is that it looked like a new junior high school, albeit a very nice junior high school. This was probably partially due to the basketball hoop sculpture visible in the south courtyard outside what could have been the gym – which actually is the hotel lobby gallery.

I do not want to give the impression that I do not like the building. I have included this in my  Architecture Blog (not just my Hotel Blog) as it is a pretty remarkable building – and hotel. As you would expect from the name, the main floor is a series of galleries dedicated to art of the 21st Century. There are paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, collages, video, kinetic installations, iconic furniture, and remarkable assemblages of common materials. The check-in desk is a simple table with the most pleasant and helpful front desk staff i have come across. Only the laptop computer on the table gives you a clue that the table in the gallery space also functions as the front desk/lobby.

There are a variety of clerestory windows and an interior courtyard, bringing natural light into the lobby, cocktail lounge and restaurant – even the kitchen. There is a large meeting/banquet area and breakout space with Arne Jacobsen’s leather “egg” chairs, a business office and fitness center.  All of these spaces display artwork, as well as a series of gallery spaces interspersed throughout the street level.

The guest rooms are fantastic, and the lounge and restaurant are outstanding. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here. It also happens to be within walking distance of a great new museum, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

View photos of my guest room click here.

View photos of the lounge and restaurant; click The Hive

The 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville web site