The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has announced plans to build a mixed-use health and wellness hub—designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects—on the grounds of the museum’s 120-acre campus in Bentonville, Arkansas.
While not a medical facility, the 75,000-square-foot building will provide office space for the Whole Health Institute (WHI), Walmart heiress Alice Walton’s newly formed nonprofit focused on “radically redesigning the systems that impact health and well-being with the ultimate goal of making Whole Health affordable and accessible to everyone.” With cantilevered sections that will soar over the park-like grounds of Crystal Bridges, the low-slung building will also feature extensive community space for the institute to present holistic, well-being-minded public programming as well as office space for Walton’s Art Bridges initiative. It will also provide access to the Chopra Library for Integrative Studies and Whole Health (formerly ISHAR, a subsidiary of the Chopra Foundation), which became a department of the WHI earlier this year.
“Earlier this year, we announced the Whole Health Institute with our mission to give everyone access to a transformative approach to health,” said Tracy Gaudet, a former official with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs who is now serving as executive director of the Whole Health Institute, in a press release. “As our newly formed institution continues to develop, the location on Crystal Bridges’ campus and the design of this building provide an ideal setting for interactive programs that will welcome the community to take charge of their health and well-being surrounded by nature and inspiring works of art.”
As for the “ideal setting” provided by the building’s design, Marlon Blackwell, 2020 AIA Gold Medal recipient and founding principal of the Fayetteville-based Marlon Blackwell Architects, noted that the project team is considering “architecture’s role in presenting a space for both wellbeing and health education” throughout the design process. “There is a focus on creating a sense of place that manifests into the curvilinear forms and native stone inspired by the Ozark forest and karst topography,” he elaborated in a statement. “The openness of the building and access to the natural surroundings are also important elements and an invitation to actively explore healing in relation to art, nature, and architecture in a time when health is such an important local and global issue.”
While the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art itself, opened in 2011, was designed by Moshe Safdie, Marlon Blackwell Architects has overseen the design of other projects on the sprawling northwest Arkansas campus including the museum store, coffee bar, and a forthcoming six-story parking structure that also includes programming space and other public amenities. The multi-tasking parking deck is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022. It’s anticipated that the WHI building will be completed at some point the following year after construction kicks off this coming spring. Cost estimates have not been revealed.
“Crystal Bridges and Whole Health Institute are partner organizations with an aligned vision of enriching lives,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer of Crystal Bridges. “We are excited to welcome them to the neighborhood and look forward to exploring the intersection of art, nature, and wellbeing through programs, conversations, and collaborations.”