Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum appoints Michael Van Valkenburgh to redesign Monks Garden

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum announced recently that Michael Van Valkenburgh has been commissioned to redesign its Monks Garden, the cloistered garden adjacent to the historic building
and connected to the exterior gardens which surround the Museum’s new wing designed by Renzo Piano.

Reflecting on the potential for the garden to expand the experience of the Museum, Michael said, “I share with Isabella Stewart Gardner a love of horticulture and art. The redesign of the Monks Garden is a wonderful opportunity to bring these two interests together. I look forward to working with the Gardner staff to create a memorable and enduring garden and a place Bostonians will hopefully cherish.”

The Monks Garden has been a part of the Museum since its opening in 1903 and still bears the same footprint as it did in Gardner’s day but the plantings have changed over the last century. Originally Isabella Gardner installed the Monks. Garden in an Italianate style with tall, vertical evergreen trees in rows along part of the main walk and along the edge of the brick wall. Over time she added a large pergola covered with vines and the beds along the pergola were planted with flowers.

For the new design, the Gardner Museum has asked Van Valkenburgh to create a space that will offer year round interest while also harmonizing with the interior spaces of the historic building and the new Piano-designed wing. The new Garden will be a destination for quiet contemplation, strolling, relaxing and informal gatherings.

Mr. Van Valkenburgh’s firm was chosen after a search that involved national and international candidates. Working with Charles Waldheim, Consulting Curator of Landscape, and Robert Campbell, architecture critic and consultant, the Gardner Museum’s new building committee with the Director Anne Hawley selected top candidates from a list of nominees. The committee visited gardens by these candidates before choosing MVVA for the commission.

The newly designed Monks Garden is expected to open to the public in 2013.

SOURCE: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at