Safdie Architects reveals a major Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art expansion

The Ozarks Beckon

Safdie Architects reveals a major Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art expansion

Safdie Architects is designing a substantial expansion of its Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which opened in 2011 in Bentonville, Arkansas. (Courtesy Safdie Architects)

Just months after announcing a new Marlon Blackwell-designed home for Alice Walton’s Whole Health Institute on the grounds of its 120-acre campus in northwestern Arkansas, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has revealed that the core team behind the design of the landmark museumSafdie Architects with Buro Happold in the role of structural, facade, and MEP engineer—will return for a major expansion that will add 100,000 square feet of new space to the 200,000-square-foot Ozarkian arts and culture hub.

In expanding the facility’s footprint by 50 percent, Crystal Bridges will enjoy a 65 percent increase in available public gallery space, including two brand new galleries and expanded room for temporary exhibitions and community-generated displays; enlarged education-dedicated areas included a dedicated floor with flexible, multiuse gathering areas, art studios, and maker spaces geared toward “engage creators of all ages and abilities” according to the museum; a natural light-flooded gallery-connecting bridge that is set to include a new cafe and non-traditional exhibition space, and a circular plaza for outdoor community gatherings and museum programming.

rendering of a museum expansion project in arkansas
Rendering of the planned expansion at Crystal Bridges looking south. (Courtesy Safdie Architects)

“Continued use of regional materials such as concrete, timber, and fieldstone are sourced from Northwest Arkansas and celebrate the region’s craft traditions,” the museum detailed in a press announcement. “New interior/exterior connections throughout the project create links between the galleries and program spaces and the surrounding park and trails.”

Joining Safdie Architects and Buro Happold on the expansion is associate architect Hight Jackson Associates, New York-based landscape architecture firm Coen+Partners, and CEI Engineers, which will serve as the civil engineer. LAM will oversee lighting design and Flintco will act as general contractor. Construction is set to kick off early next year and wrap up in 2024. Additionally, Safdie Architects is currently overseeing a revamp of the main museum lobby and courtyard which is expected to be completed later this spring.

The announcement comes nearly a full decade after Crystal Bridges first opened its doors to the public in November 2011. In that time, the museum estimates that 5 million people have visited its free-admission permanent galleries, special exhibitions and events, and sprawling, Reed Hilderbrand-designed grounds. In 2019 alone, Crystal Bridges hosted nearly 800 programs and events and welcomed more than 700,000 visitors.

rendering of a museum cafe and event plaza under a covered timber canopy
In addition to the new gallery space, the expansion will include a new cafe and event plaza. (Courtesy Safdie Architects)
A timber covered bridge at crystal bridges with people inside
A new bridge will connect two gallery pavilions. (Courtesy Safdie Architects)

As noted by Nelson Peacock, president and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, Crystal Bridges has “catalyzed economic development in Northwest Arkansas by transforming the region into a destination for tourism and enhancing the quality of life for our residents” over the past ten years. He adds: “The museum’s expansion will open opportunities for artists and creatives and provide access to more world-class art in our community.”

Moshe Safdie, founder of the eponymous Boston-headquartered firm, relayed his excitement in returning to Crystal Bridges for the expansion project: “It has been a joy to see Crystal Bridges’ enthusiastic reception by the public,” he said. “We are honored to be back and working with the museum to realize a series of new facilities which will enrich the diversity of the museum experience.”