The first part of this series (planned as two parts, it is now a three-part) touched upon landscape designer Walter Hood’s cursory views on Jackson’s approach to its own landscape. This second installment addresses Hood’s vision for a new NMWA sculpture garden and connective earth design.
“It is not the stuff you have. It is the stuff you no longer have. A lot of planning is too much about “what we need” v.s. “what we have.” In a reciprocal way, planning should be about the things that connect us-how to connect us. That makes us special.” – Walter Hood
Walter Hood has travelled to Jackson Hole to consult with the National Museum of Wildlife Art (NMWA). In a recent edition of NMWA’s member publication Call of the Wild, Hood described the beginnings of his collaboration with NMWA that will, ideally, result in a new museum sculpture garden.
It’s not as if Hood’s work to date has included an ongoing interest in wildlife museums, but the environment and how people use it drive his work on the project. Process and progress, inspiration ignited by how people choose to make “place.” On a certain level, he says, it’s all the same, whether one is talking about a sculpture garden or an entire community.
“The museum is interesting in that there are these cultural artifices, pieces of art, that are trying to represent nature,” says Hood. It’s a bit ironic that bronze elk are stationed at the base of the Museum’s driveway right across from the Elk Refuge; the installation seems an attempt to convince the public that there is a connection between NMWA and the Refuge.
“If the landscape itself was powerful enough it could move people in fantastic ways. That is what I am interested in. Standing out on NMWA’s hill, is there a way to allow a visitor to be in the Refuge? It is possible. NMWA’s architecture builds on the idea that it is “with the landscape,” and ironically that is one of the issues they are dealing with.”
Hood believes he could scale and shift existing landscape, so that art as well as the landscape is legible. “Attempt to eliminate design dichotomy, the experience of being either here, or there – either at the museum or in the landscape; either in Jackson or in the landscape.”
Check out parking lot ratios to the buildings they serve, suggests Hood. Looking at the Museum’s site, the parking lot stretches incredibly far, perhaps taking more space than the building itself. Part of the lot might be converted to trail, and a pervious surface is healthier for surrounding growth than asphalt, an oil-based material.
Rarely filled, and within a couple of miles of town, a reduced parking lot would be no problem if more mass transit options existed. “You don’t even want to know what asphalt is doing the environment; pervious surfaces would change our world drastically.”
Will NMWA pursue traditional design for its sculpture garden? Hood thinks both representational and contemporary design will be utilized.
“As a designer I have my own preferences, but when I do work I accept that scope,” he affirms. “What they are interested is figurative art with a long tradition, pre-Renaissance. But they had a show last year with Picasso and other contemporary artists rendering wildlife. Fantastic! Jane (Jane Lavino, NMWA’s Sugden Family Curator of Education) talked about the possibility of having contemporary installation in the landscape that would talk about wildlife in very different ways. I think then the project becomes broader in scope.
It is not about placing things; it is about creating more of a visitor experience where you can have permanent and temporary pieces co-interacting in the setting. Helping people make discoveries without bringing in the artificial. We have some strong ideas on how that might be achieved. It is my job to provoke. NMWA has the ability to create amazing indoor and outdoor experiences, and those are what museums are about today. It could be fabulous!”
It’s all already there. It’s only a question of how to make it visible.