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North Carolina Museum of Art integrates landscape, culture
Jill Odom | January 30, 2017
North Carolina Museum of Art Wave Garden

The Wave Garden is one of the new additions to the NCMA Park.
Photo: Courtesy of NCMA

Nature and museums don’t seem like they would mix well, but the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) is working to change that perception with its expanded park project.

The expansion of the NCMA Park began in August 2015 and was completed in November 2016.

Civitas, a landscape architecture firm based in Denver, Colorado, was put to the task of designing a park that connects art, nature and people.

“Moving the Museum into nature provides a memorable and ever-changing means of connecting to art and culture, as well as a social experience that resonates in today’s world,” said Mark Johnson, founding president of Civitas.

The goal of the development was to combine the museum and park into one memorable destination and to reimagine what a museum could be.

Rather than just create a traditional sculpture park, Civitas designed both formal and informal environments that could invite a variety of different experiences.


A drone view of the Ellipse during the temporary installation of Amanda Parer’s Intrude.
Photo: Courtesy of NCMA

The expansion included the construction of the Ellipse, the Promenade, Wave Gardens, Parterre Lawn and Gardens and new Blue Ridge Parking.

The Ellipse features a central lawn encircled by a 600-foot ipe-wood bench. Temporary public art installations can be placed here or it can be used for relaxing and playing.

The Promenade provides a long view as it winds through the 164-acre property. In the Wave Garden, more than 150,000 plants bow and dance on 20 mounded contemporary gardens. This area is interspersed with paths and benches.

The Parterre Lawn and Gardens connect the Ellipse and Wave Gardens to Blue Ridge Road, and are another space that can be used for art installations or events. The new parking lot added more than 500 new parking spaces and a 1,000-foot-long water quality garden will catch water from the parking areas to help filter out pollutants.

“By giving definition to the Park, we enable new programs, art events and public and private gatherings where the Museum community can invent new ways of rethinking what an art museum can mean to them,” Johnson said.

The $13 million project certainly attracted a crowd in November when it opened. The Ellipse was the temporary home to Australian artist Amanda Parer’s Intrude, which consisted of five giant inflatable rabbits.

More than 25,000 people visited during the Intrude installation’s 12 days of events.


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