New Central Library – “Austin’s front porch” – boasts rooftop garden and more


Austin is head over heels in love with our new Central Library, a marvelous civic structure by Lake|Flato that is much more than a library. It’s a community space for all of Austin in a prime location on Cesar Chavez Street near Austin City Hall and across from Lady Bird Lake.

Since its grand opening in October, I’ve visited several times, and I’m excited to be on the team bringing Garden Bloggers Fling attendees here for our welcome reception in a private event space next May.


The library is one of the first places in Austin that our bloggers will visit, and the beautiful native-plant landscaping at street level will make a strong first impression.


This public patio along Cesar Chavez, screened from the busy street by massive block-style benches and native trees, grasses, and perennials, is adjacent to our event space — nice!


Doubles as a bouldering structure?


Inside — shazam! Floating steel stairs and wooden walkways dizzyingly change direction, Hogwarts-style, as they rise through an airy atrium.


Everywhere, an eye-candy assortment of colorful, modern chairs beckons visitors to get comfy and read.


Booths are designed for working with others, with a downtown view to boot.


Light and bright


A red “lip” chair, and beyond the red porthole window is a children’s area.


Continuing the red theme, a gigantic cuckoo clock silhouette hangs in the atrium, but instead of cuckoos the birds represent Austin’s oft-unloved grackles.


It’s accompanied by a video installation of an oversized grackle silhouette in a window-like frame. The bird’s head occasionally flicks around in a lifelike way, creating a moment of surprise.


Climbing up all 6 floors, you pass airy book stacks, meeting rooms, and reading spaces…


…like this open reading room furnished with inviting chairs and tables.


The room’s windows overlook one of the coolest spaces in the library, at least for garden lovers — the rooftop native-plant garden. Look — there’s an oak tree up there!


Yuccas, flowering perennials, and grasses flow across a mounded central planting bed, with seating all around and an L-shaped arbor for shade.


One side looks south over Lady Bird Lake and east toward downtown, offering a beautiful view.


Lady Bird Lake, with the Long Center and Palmer Events Center on the other side


Relaxing and reading in the garden


I love this space.


From the east side of the rooftop garden, you get a great view of the new 2nd Street Bridge, aka the Butterfly Bridge, which spans Shoal Creek.


Circling back around to the atrium stairs, you get another glimpse of the rooftop garden. And more lip chairs!


Another incredible space, and one that epitomizes Lake|Flato’s style, is the reading porch, just past the children’s area. An open-air space that invites readers to get out of the air conditioning and enjoy Austin’s weather, the screened porch has an enticing mix of seating, fascinating geodesic dome lights, and child-friendly valve wheels on the walls that you can spin, plus Big Ass Fans (real name) to keep readers comfortable.


Those colorful sofas. Those woven ottomans. Those lights!


This little cutie found some pinwheels.


The exterior is wonderful too, and includes a steel shade panel with laser-cut quotes about reading and books. Below that, facing pedestrian-friendly 2nd Street, is where a soon-to-open cafe, Cookbook, will offer cookbook-inspired dishes and drinks (including alcoholic beverages).


The landscaping was still being planted in late November, but the bones are in place. Update: Lake|Flato tells me that the landscape architecture firm behind the design is Coleman & Associates.


Limestone slabs create raised planting beds — and new buildings are sprouting up behind the new plants.


I like the naturalistic planting of native plants along the Shoal Creek ravine, with a nice view of the Butterfly Bridge beyond.


At dusk, the “wings” are washed with softly colored lights that segue from yellow to green to red.


A wide pedestrian sidewalk floats along the side of the bridge.


It’s a lovely, human-scaled bridge that echoes Austin’s arched Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360.


Austin is lucky to have this magnificent public library in such a scenic part of downtown. I look forward to spending many pleasant hours here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Just saying “Aloe!” and mullein around


Aloe there! (Anyone else into horticultural puns? Add yours in the comments, and show us aloe you can go.) I spotted this row of speckled soap aloes still blooming at Lady Bird Lake last weekend. Their coral-red candelabra blooms look especially pretty against a lime-green rebar fence.


I also enjoyed the view of Lady Bird Lake and the Lamar Bridge from the Pfluger pedestrian bridge. Someone is taking good care of a planter box on the bridge.


Back at home, I’ve been mullin’ where to add a few more mullein plants since my friend Tait Moring gave me some seeds this fall. This mullein is still blooming post-snow.


The little succulent planter is still doing fine too. With good drainage, Coahuila lace cactus and ghost plant can take our Central Texas winters in stride. The smaller sedum in the middle does well too.


Mullein sunshine. An Instagram reader recently advised that mullein is terribly invasive in drier regions like West Texas and beyond. I haven’t found it to be so in my own garden, although it does seed itself around like native Mexican feathergrass and inland sea oats. At any rate, it’s always smart to check your region’s invasive species list or ask a knowledgeable plant person before introducing a new plant into your garden.


I leave you with a menagerie of succulent planters I spotted at Blue Genie Art Bazaar. An Instagram reader saw this on my IG (@pamdigging) and expressed horror that anyone would kill a sea turtle and make a planter out of it. Hee hee — well, they DO look pretty real. But no, these are plastic animals that someone has been rather creative with.


They’re turtley fun! What a great way to add a little pandamonium (see what I did there?) to your windowsill garden this year.

All you pun-lovers, there are some amazing aloe and horticultural pun gifts on Etsy. Check ’em out.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Calling all garden bloggers! You’re invited to register for the annual Garden Bloggers Fling tour and meetup, which will be held in Austin next May 3-6, 2018! Click this link for information about registering, and you can see our itinerary here. Space is limited, so don’t delay. The 2018 Fling will be the event’s 10th anniversary, which started in Austin in 2008.

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Chihuly in the Forest and American art at Crystal Bridges Museum


While in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, last weekend, my husband and I drove to nearby Bentonville to see the remarkable collection of American art at Crystal Bridges Museum. The museum is surrounded by pleasant walking trails, and an exhibit of Chihuly glass sculptures, Chihuly in the Forest, was ongoing (it ends November 27).

Naturally, I had to see it.


The museum sits down in a hollow, encircled by wooded hills. A steel and glass elevator takes you up to the start of the Chihuly trail.


The first sculpture, Boathouse 7 Neon, a composition of brightly colored and wavy glass tubes, put me in mind of someone who stuck their finger in an electrical outlet.


The colorful trees were electric too.


The mellow autumn sunlight illuminated the glass until they seemed to glow from within. Here’s Turquoise Reeds and Ozark Fiori.


This sculpture jumps over the path and continues along a creek bed.


Neodymium Reeds, luminescent and seeming to grow from mossy old logs


Glowing trees of gold…


…and crimson


The big daddy of any Chihuly exhibit is always a sun sculpture. Here’s Sole d’Oro, or Golden Sun.


The gold glass pieces pick up the color of the surrounding trees.


Next we saw Belugas, which look like balloons to me…


…although certain ones do have a dolphin-like quality.


They rose from a bed of ferns.


Red tree with a glimpse of Turquoise Reeds in the distance


The way Red Reeds was stacked reminds me of old split-rail fences from the Civil War era, with their diagonal bracing.


A walk in the woods


Boats are also a popular Chihuly element. Here’s Fiori Boat, which means Flower Boat. I also admired the ‘Blue Zinger’ sedge planted around it.


I’ve seen Chihuly exhibits before, at Dallas Arboretum and Desert Botanical Garden, but this was the first time along a forest trail. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the glass amid natural scenery, especially with the fall foliage of late October.


Before I show you the museum itself, let’s explore the inside of Fly’s Eye Dome by American designer and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller, one of many interesting sculptural and architectural pieces on the museum grounds.


The circles in the dome made spotlights on the ground.


Golden trees glowed against the blue sky, framed in those circles — cool!


The museum itself is spectacular. You drop down into it from the glass-walled parking-garage elevator with a view of a spooky and monumental black spider in the open courtyard below.


It’s titled Maman, or Mother. Hmm.


For the artist, Louise Bourgeois, envisioning her mother as a spider was not a negative statement.

“Art, like the beauty of our natural world, should be accessible to everyone.”


From that dramatic entrance, the design of the museum itself is wonderful. A series of organically shaped, “floating” pods set in a small lake and surrounded by the Ozark hills, the buildings look like glass-walled, covered bridges, from which I assume the name Crystal Bridges arose. If you’re interested in how the architect, Moshe Safdie, came up with the unique design of the buildings (they reference swinging — i.e., suspension — bridges common in Arkansas) and tucked them down in a ravine rather than putting them up top for a commanding view, watch a series of engaging videos of Safdie in conversation with founder Alice Walton.


Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, who grew up here, loving art but with no access to museums, founded Crystal Bridges to bring great American art home to her people and her region. General admission to the museum is always free, thanks to a grant by Wal-Mart. I’m no Wal-Mart fan, but I think that’s wonderful — a tremendous gift to the people of Arkansas and especially tiny Bentonville, and to the country as well.


To me, the museum’s founding is a heartening story about investing in the place you love:

A long-time art lover and collector, Ms. Walton conceived the idea of creating a national art museum in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas, so that people of the region would have ready access to great works of art. She planned to build the museum on a 120-acre stretch of natural Ozark forest that had belonged to her family for many years. The land had special meaning to Alice and her brothers, who had played together in these woods as children; and it was important to the family that the land’s natural character be maintained. Alice presented her idea to the Walton Family Foundation, who agreed to fund the project.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is the first national museum dedicated to the work of American artists in more than a generation. By design, Crystal Bridges is a wholly remarkable museum: in its collection, which spans five centuries of American art; in its dramatic architecture; in its lush natural setting; and in its geographical location in the heart of the country, far from any coastal metropolis.

These elements alone make the Museum distinctive among its peers, but the spirit of Crystal Bridges runs deeper than these outward emblems. From its beginning, Crystal Bridges has been guided by certain key principles: the Museum offers the finest examples of American art available, and holds education at the very core of our mission, and strives to be a welcoming and inspirational place for everyone.

This last is one of the reasons it was essential that Crystal Bridges be located here, in Bentonville, Arkansas, surrounded by the beautiful Ozark landscape, where the citizens of our region — for whom most of the country’s finest museums are hundreds of miles away — can experience great works of art as part of their everyday lives, and where visitors from anywhere in the world can enjoy American art amid the beauty of the American landscape. At Crystal Bridges, we share a belief that art is at the center of what it means to be human. Art, like the beauty of our natural world, should be accessible to everyone.


I couldn’t agree more. Here’s the museum’s restaurant, Eleven (a reference to the museum’s founding date on 11/11/11), a lovely space.


And here’s a small sampling of the art, pieces that were particularly eye-catching to me among many much more famous pieces. This is a jazzy Stuart Davis painting from a special exhibit of his work.


Exquisite paintings from Martin Johnson Heade’s The Gems of Brazil series — Hooded Visorbearer


…and Blue Morpho Butterfly.


Luigi Lucioni’s richly colored and intense Portrait of Bob


And Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species series


We had a great visit to Crystal Bridges and could easily spend another day there to see everything. We’ll definitely be back one day.

For a look back at our visit to nearby Eureka Springs, Arkansas, including beautiful Thorncrown Chapel, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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