MVVA’s design of the Monk’s Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum aims to interpret the museum’s meandering gallery layout, and the rich colors and textures of its idiosyncratic collection, in a contemporary landscape context. While the garden is accessible from both the original museum building and Renzo Piano’s new addition, it is not the primary connection between them, freeing it to focus instead on cultivating a sense of place. The garden is given its own interior, with the aim of provoking extended quiet contemplation rather than hurried passage.
The garden is surrounded by a high brick wall, and the design aims to soften this enclosure through the creation of a small-scale, dreamlike woodland. Composed of approximately 60 trees including stewartia, paper bark maple, and gray birch, the groves establish a detail-rich palette of colors and textures suitable for intimate appreciation. Winding paths, paved in a striking combination of black brick and reflective mica schist, meander through the trees. Rather than intersecting, the paths playfully meet and diverge, while also gently widening in places to create nooks for garden chairs.
The Monk’s Garden won a 2014 ASLA Communication Award.