Sculpture Garden

Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden. The Museum of Modern Art, Architecture and Design Study Center

Sculpture Garden Architecture 117

Deputy Director, Peter Reed: The architect of the Sculpture Garden, Phillip Johnson, when he first designed this garden in 1953, he talked about it as an urban piazza. That's trying to give you my Italian, an urban piazza. He's thinking of those great Italian civic spaces which tend to be paved in stone and are full of life.

He's also thinking of this garden as an outdoor room. Obviously there's no roof. But rather than just one big open space, look at how he's divided it up. Look at how he's made smaller spaces within it. Try to count four spaces.

Those two beautiful asymmetrical fountain pools, those help divide the space, and that's one way he does it. And the other way he's doing it is with plantings and the groves of trees.

If you look at the architecture, you look at the paving, and the walls, and the steps, everything is at right angles to each other. It's all horizontal-vertical lines. So where does the magic come in? I think that's through the water, through the plants, letting nature be the curves and the animation of your senses, you might say, with the architecture being kind of the backdrop.

The chairs you might be sitting on, designed by Harry Bertoia, in the early 1950s. It's become the signature chair of The Museum of Modern Art's garden. And one reason I like them is that, in their wiry structure, they’re so airy. You see right through them. They don't interrupt your view of the sculpture, or of the fountains, or of the trees and the flowers and so forth. They almost disappear.

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