National Design Award winner Walter Hood, principal and founder of Hood Design Studio, was responsible for the final phase of Cooper Hewitt’s recent transformative renovation: the redesign and reimagining of the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden. A landscape architect who has dedicated his career to public garden design, Hood, working in collaboration with RAFT Landscape Architecture and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, created a vibrant new community green space ideal for engagement and discussion. Wood speaks with Cooper Hewitt about the redesign.

What’s changing in the garden?

We designed new garden spaces around the museum to create opportunities for engagement and discussion. Our plantings focused on durable materials and hardy species that can withstand heavy and frequent use. The spaces can now accommodate groups of various sizes: from an intimate conversation between two friends to gatherings of 30 or more people. This will make the space an ideal setting for many of the museum’s programs and events.

How do you approach your design process?

Our process is rooted in culture. To imbue the new spaces with a sense of place specific to Cooper Hewitt, our planting design took into account several factors: Richard Schermerhorn’s original 1901 garden design drawings for Andrew Carnegie; the garden’s location at the edge of Central Park and the opportunity to create a contextual relationship between the two green spaces; a range of color and texture that provides seasonal interest; and Cooper Hewitt’s diverse and growing programs.

What were some challenges you faced?

While some challenges permeate most projects (budget, logistics, timing, etc.), the diversity of needs in this project was an ongoing consideration. Balancing the need for more program space outdoors with the responsibility to honor the historic nature of the garden and mansion was top-of-mind at each phase.

How does the discipline of landscape architecture help solve problems?

The landscape is a powerful medium for making spaces that are multilayered, flexible, mutable, and beautiful, and this is reflected in our garden design for Cooper Hewitt.

What do you love about your work as a designer?

Culture… that we get to engage in the culture of a place, a community, or an institution—and with Cooper Hewitt, all three—as a way to bring about a new landscape that is intrinsic to what they do.

 

The Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden redesign was made possible by major capital funding from The City of New York. Generous support was provided by Nancy Marks. Additional funding was provided by Enid and Lester Morse, Leslie and Charlotte Moore Foundation, Madeleine Rudin Johnson, and the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden Endowment Fund.

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