It’s difficult to figure out where to start because, to be completely honest, it was an overwhelming experience. And I mean that in the best way possible. To quote from the press kit:
To provide access to a larger portion of its collection and enhance its service to the public, Glenstone has completed a major expansion of its museum facilities and landscape. The centerpiece is a new 204,000- square-foot building, called the Pavilions, designed by Thomas Phifer of Thomas Phifer and Partners.
Embedded into a rise in the landscape to give the outward impression of discrete buildings rising out of the earth, as in a traditional hill town, the Pavilions is organized within as a ring of gallery rooms surrounding a large landscaped Water Court. Rooms of varying sizes, configurations, and light conditions house single-artist installations and a multiple-artist survey of works from the Glenstone collection. The building significantly expands Glenstone’s indoor exhibition space, from 9,000 to 59,000 square feet, and also provides increased office space and support facilities. A strategic master plan and site design by PWP Landscape Architecture more than doubles the area of restored woodlands, meadows and streams accessible to the public, from approximately 100 to 230 acres. The expansion also provides a new public entrance and arrival building, two free-standing cafés, and, in 2019, a center that highlights environmentally sustainable practices at Glenstone.
Upon arrival you park in the most beautiful parking lot I’ve ever seen (Glenstone calls it a parking grove, if that helps you understand what I mean). Your first stop is the the Arrival Hall, where you’ll find a bookshop and bathrooms, and you’ll receive a map to orient you to the property. Then on foot, you’ll set out towards the Pavilions. The walk is about 15 minutes, through woods and an expansive meadow with rolling hills, and is designed to help you slow down, to help you separate yourself from the hustle and bustle of the world, to help clear your mind so you can experience Glenstone more mindfully.
The integration of architecture with landscape, and both with art, is key to the experience of Glenstone. “We considered the landscape as the inspiration,” Thomas Phifer explains. “The visitor’s arrival is choreographed through the trees and open fields, heightening your experience with the land and revealing subtle qualities of the site. From your first moments at Glenstone you experience a place with few distractions, the bustle of ordinary daily activities drops away, and your mind and soul prepare for an intimate encounter with art.”
We gathered on the large deck that appears to float above the Water Court for opening remarks from Emily and Mitch Rales, architect Thomas Phifer, of Thomas Phifer and Partners, and Adam Greenspan, of PWP Landscape Architecture.
Emily Rales reiterated that Glenstone would always be free and for the public. And all four speakers had variations on the idea that Mrs. Rales first spoke about: that everything in the design of Glenstone is intended to be contemplative, and to slow down the visitor. “We hope that your pulse will slow down, that you will start to become aware of your breath and the changing light values in the galleries.”
I can assure you they’ve succeeded.
I’m certain my words aren’t adequate to explain the experience or the emotions I felt while visiting. Below is an assortment of images of art, views, or design details that moved me. I hope you find them as meaningful as I did.
About Glenstone Museum
Please note: Glenstone is closed to the public until the grand re-opening on October 4.
Glenstone, a museum of modern and contemporary art, is integrated into more than 230 acres of gently rolling pasture and unspoiled woodland in Montgomery County, Maryland, less than 15 miles from the heart of Washington, DC. Established by the not-for-profit Glenstone Foundation, the museum opened in 2006 and provides a contemplative, intimate setting for experiencing iconic works of art and architecture within a natural environment.
Glenstone is open Thursdays through Sundays, 10 am to 5 pm. Visitors are invited to explore the grounds on their own or join one of several outdoor sculpture tours offered throughout the day. Admission to Glenstone and parking are free and visits should be scheduled online. Same-day visits can be scheduled using the website or a smartphone.
Photographs from all my visits to Glenstone are here.