Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion & 100 Acres

Designers: Edward L Blake and the Landscape Studio, Marlon Blackwell Architect | City: Indianapolis, IN | Project Type: pavilion, art, visitor’s center, LEED, sustainable
Date Visited: 10.03.12

Location: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis, Indiana
Size: 1,290 sq. ft pavilion, 3,980 sq. ft. site
Budget: $2.3 million
Official Opening Date: June 2010

Located in the curve of the White River, the wooded 100 Acres Art & Nature Park is sited on a large floodplain. I’ve long been looking forward for an opportunity to visit 100 Acres, a renowned outdoor exhibit of art projects that uses art to “strengthen the public’s understanding of the unique, reciprocal relationships between contemporary art and the natural world.” And within the nature park, the Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion is built on the highest point of the park–the only part of the floodplain that could be built upon–on a barely half-an-acre of space.

During my visit, I also had the fortunate opportunity to walk around 100 Acres with Jennifer Roberts, an engineer who worked on the grounds with the late landscape architect Ed Blake. As a site engineer, she was able to point out and explain many of the unseen layers and processes behind the landscape as well as the background on some of the impressive outdoor art sculptures and spaces.

Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion

The Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion is impressive in its nearly seamless relationship between building and landscape as designed by the teamwork of Marlon Blackwell Architect and landscape architect Ed Blake and the Landscape Studio. The building draws inspiration from the structure and form of a fallen leaf. Ipe wood slats fold back onto themselves to create a continuous perforated overhead canopy. Semi-transparent walls, roof and floor decking allow natural light and moisture to filter through the building.

Despite the challenging site constraints, architects and landscape architects worked together to raise the pavilion 30 inches off of the ground onto columns and disguised the height with earth berms. The long ramps that curve seamlessly from landscape to building lift the user into a space that simultaneously seems to blend in and hover above the surrounding fauna.

I loved walking around and sitting within the pavilion behind the tall, ceiling-to-floor windows. There was a stillness and tranquility in this built landscape. Unlike stumbling upon a cabin in the woods, the pavilion is sited to look as if it was always a part of the surrounding landscape.

Concept Images photo credit:

Site Plan photo credit:

Plan View photo credit:

100 Acre Grounds:

The 100 Acres grounds consist of sculptural pieces that speak to the relationship between man and nature. My favorites were Chop Stick— which I’ve made a separate post for–and FLOW: Can You See the River, “a city-wide public art project that reveals how ordinary activities are connected to the history, ecology, origin and potential of the White River water system.”

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