Located on 230 acres in Potomac, Maryland, near Washington, DC, Glenstone is a museum of modern and contemporary art that offers visitors a seamlessly integrated experience of works from its collection, architecture, and landscape. Its first exhibition building, known as the Gallery, was designed by Charles Gwathmey of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects and opened to the public in 2006. The natural setting, designed by Adam Greenspan and Peter Walker of PWP Landscape Architecture, incorporates major works of outdoor sculpture within rolling meadows and unspoiled woodlands. Admission to Glenstone is always free. Visits are scheduled, to ensure that guests can have an unhurried, intimate engagement with the artworks and environment.
To provide access to a larger portion of its collection and enhance its service to the public, Glenstone has completed a major expansion of its museum facilities and landscape. The centerpiece is a new 204,000- square-foot building, called the Pavilions, designed by Thomas Phifer of Thomas Phifer and Partners.
Embedded into a rise in the landscape to give the outward impression of discrete buildings rising out of the earth, as in a traditional hill town, the Pavilions is organized within as a ring of gallery rooms surrounding a large landscaped Water Court. Rooms of varying sizes, configurations, and light conditions house single-artist installations and a multiple-artist survey of works from the Glenstone collection. The building significantly expands Glenstone’s indoor exhibition space, from 9,000 to 59,000 square feet, and also provides increased office space and support facilities. A strategic master plan and site design by PWP Landscape Architecture more than doubles the area of restored woodlands, meadows and streams accessible to the public, from approximately 100 to 230 acres. The expansion also provides a new public entrance and arrival building, two free-standing cafés, and, in 2019, a center that highlights environmentally sustainable practices at Glenstone.
The Pavilions first appears as a cluster of simple masonry forms, varying in size and proportions and embedded in a rise in the land. The Pavilions has eleven rooms and nine of them will feature single-artist installations at the time of the opening. One room features an installation of works by 52 artists represented in the Glenstone collection, and another room offers a view of the landscape. There are also artworks installed in the entry and the passage around the Water Court.
The Pavilions’ design emphasizes materials that evoke a direct, elemental and timeless dialogue with the surrounding landscape. The exterior is made of 26,000 stacked blocks of cast concrete, individually poured to measure six feet long, a foot high and a foot deep. Although no color-altering pigment was used, the pouring method and mixture of cement and sand were allowed to result in slight variations in the light gray color and in the texture. This finish deliberately contrasts with the smooth precision of the windows, which have been specially engineered using glass panels as large as nine feet wide by thirty feet tall, and are set flush into stainless steel mullions. The glass surfaces and concrete blocks form a seamless skin that bridges the building’s indoor and outdoor spaces. White maple is used to clad the interior walls, ceiling and floors of the Café, Arrival Hall and the room looking out into the landscape.
Design and info © Thomas Phifer and Partners
Images © Iwan Baan