New York-based multidisciplinary design studio OSD has announced that it has been selected to work alongside lead project architect Polk Stanley Wilcox to envision the landscape of the forthcoming Alice L. Walton School of Medicine in Bentonville, Arkansas. Formerly known as the Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the first-of-its kind medical school will encompass a 154,000-square-foot building that shares a sylvan 120-acre campus with Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, designed by Safdie Architects, and the Marlon Blackwell Architects-designed Whole Health Institute.
The site, new name, and initial renderings of the building and landscape were first released late last month following the inaugural meeting of the Alice L. Walton School of Medicine Board of Directors.
Construction on the facility, now in the design development phase, is slated to kick off next spring and is anticipated to begin welcoming its first class of students in fall 2025. Once up and running (and accredited), the school will offer a four-year, medical degree-granting program integrating “conventional medicine with holistic principles and self-care practices,” according to a press release.
The new School of Medicine, which Walton described in a press statement as an “inspiring learning environment that supports well-being, emphasizes innovation, and equips future physicians to be agents of change,” is the latest project to take root amidst a flurry of major ongoing works at and around Crystal Bridges, which first opened in this particularly tranquil pocket of Northwest Arkansas in 2011. These projects include a sizable, Safdie Architects-led expansion of Crystal Bridges itself, which won approval from Bentonville Planning Commission last October, and the Whole Health Institute, which is currently under construction and is slated to open in 2024. Work is also underway on a six-story, multi-use parking structure (also designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects) and Convergence, a 4-acre playscape launched by Crystal Bridges in collaboration with the Scott Family Amazeum, a neighboring interactive children’s museum that opened in 2015.
As for the OSD-led landscape scheme at the new School of Medicine, it will be seamlessly fused to the Whole Health Institute and Crystal Bridges, located to the west, via a network of bike and walking trails weaving through a dense patch of Ozakarian forest spread across the larger campus. This, as a press announcement described, will create a “link between art, nature and healing for a holistic learning environment.” OSD’s proposal envisions a lush rooftop park-slash-terrace crowning the new building, which will feature a protective “bluff shelter” on its front facade along J Street, and an overall focus on “holistically integrating” the new building with the surrounding woodlands. Other key landscape features will include gardens for healing, foraging, and woodland meditation, urban farming space, wetlands, outdoor classrooms, and an amphitheater.
“Designing the landscape for the Alice L. Walton School of Medicine truly requires an integrative approach that considers the experience, influence and impact of nature on the mind, body and spirit,” elaborated Simon David, founding principal and creative director of OSD. “The project offers an exciting new paradigm of healing and learning environments that holistically blends building and landscape to create a deeply rooted connection to the Bentonville community, the world-class arts environment of Crystal Bridges and the wider ecosystem and magic of the Ozarks.”
“The design integrates the building into both the site and the community, engaging the land as an abstraction of Ozark geology that embraces the principles of integrated medicine, and the holistic link between mental, physical, and spiritual well-being,” added Wesley Walls, principal with Fayetteville- and Little Rock–based Polk Stanley Wilcox.
Another OSD landscape project recently profiled by AN is The Shepherd, an ambitious community arts campus in Detroit’s East Village anchored by a revitalized 110-year-old Catholic Church.
Back in Bentonville, Crystal Bridges just unveiled its first-ever exhibition dedicated to American fashion design, Fashioning America: Grit to Glamour. Also recently on view is We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy, which features a rare original print of the U.S. Constitution.
We’ll check back in with Crystal Bridge’s newest health- and wellness-focused neighbor as the project moves along.