Herzog & de Meuron

Calder Gardens . Philadelphia

Herzog & de Meuron

Calder Gardens groundbreaking.

Local Philadelphia officials, press and members of Herzog & de Meuron’s design team gathered on the 1.8-acre Calder Gardens site for its ceremonial groundbreaking. The Art Space will be dedicated to the art and ideas of Alexander Calder (1898–1976), the native Philadelphian who is considered one of the most innovative and influential artists of the 20th century and an enduring icon of the 21st. Calder Gardens will be a national and international cultural destination upon its completion.

Following a Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Land Blessing, speeches were given by Calder Foundation members with Senior Partner Jason Frantzen, Associate Studio Director (New York) Mehmet Noyan and project architects Neda Mostafavi and Ninoslav Krgovic in attendance.

Featuring a building conceived by Pritzker Prize-winning design practice Herzog & de Meuron and gardens by internationally acclaimed Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf, the project is dedicated to the art and ideas of Alexander Calder, a native Philadelphian who is considered one of the most innovative and influential artists of the 20th century.

Featuring galleries illuminated by natural light, in a structure ensconced in a flowing landscape of native and flowering species, Calder Gardens will present a rotating selection of masterworks from the Calder Foundation, New York, including mobiles, stabiles, monumental sculptures, and paintings. “The esthetic value of these objects cannot be arrived at by reasoning,” Calder wrote in 1933. “Familiarization is necessary.” Installed both indoors and outdoors, Calder’s art will be in constant dialogue with nature and the changing atmospheres of the seasons. Calder Gardens will provide the public with a singular place for contemplation and reflection, as well as abundant opportunities for learning and community building through a schedule of inclusive public programs and special events.

Crafted specifically for the presentation of Calder’s work, the landscape and architecture of Calder Gardens will unfold as a choreographed progression that moves visitors from the quotidian city context to a more contemplative realm beyond the traditional museum experience, allowing them to engage with art as a personal, real-time encounter—as the artist intended.

Discreetly nestled into the landscape, Herzog & de Meuron’s approximately 18,000 sq ft structure will be sheathed in softly reflective metal cladding that blurs the boundaries between architecture and the natural world—the material and the immaterial.

Departing the busy Parkway, visitors will approach the building along a path that winds through a meadow-like landscape punctuated by trees, arriving at the main entrance on the building’s north façade. Beyond the threshold, a sequence of spaces will reveal themselves below ground level as distinct volumes that will house a constantly changing display of Calder’s most acclaimed works. Large windows will wash the interiors with natural light and frame both the shifting geometries of Calder’s work and views of different gardens conceived as outdoor galleries. A Sunken Garden and Vestige Garden, visible from within the building through expansive glazing that likewise permits visitors outdoors to see into the building’s exhibition spaces. Quiet but theatrical, Herzog & de Meuron’s design has been conceived to amplify the impact of the artworks—to encourage engagement with their kinetic properties by affording visitors many different vantage points—and catalyze discovery and reflection.

The seamless relationship between the built elements designed by Herzog & de Meuron and the gardens envisioned by Piet Oudolf is central to the philosophy of Calder Gardens. The site will be distinguished by its naturalistic four-season garden, intending to create an entirely different experience than all other cultivated, manicured gardens on the Parkway.

Calder Gardens is scheduled to open in 2024.