Monks Garden at the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum

Boston, MA | 2013

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Nestled between the original museum building and the new Renzo Piano, Monk’s Garden is an intimate garden “room” designed to afford quiet contemplation. The garden is surrounded by a high brick wall and the design softens this enclosure through the creation of a small-scale, dreamlike woodland. Composed of approximately 60 slender trees and meandering paths, paved in a striking combination of black brick and reflective mica schist. Rather than intersecting, the paths playfully meet and diverge, while also gently widening in places to create nooks for garden chairs.

The lighting program refined the nighttime experience of the garden using cool uplights on the silver birches to make the bark glow, the underside of the leaves shimmer, and the mica in the schist pathways glimmer. Warm washes of LEDs bring out the texture and earth tones of the brick wall, pulling the eye through the foliage to the edges of the walled garden. The subtle differences create a sense of nighttime magic within the enclosed garden.


The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, landscape architect

2014 ASLA Communication Honor Award, Monk's Garden

Photography: Courtesy of Lynn Saville