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The Peabody Essex Museum Garden

The Peabody Essex Museum Garden celebrates the spirit of curiosity and discovery of its origins and the character of its collection – dynamic works across cultures, eras, and genres. Situated at the terminus of the gallery atrium, the garden provides a moment of calm reflection. A fundamental design goal was to create a sense of the unexpected and a moment of respite from the museum interior, emphasizing sensorial rather than cognitive experience using the sound of flowing water, movement of the plants, and variety in material textures.

Drawn from nature and from cultural patterns, sinuous form is re-imagined as a flat ribbon of stone that meanders out from inside the atrium and through the garden, inviting one to explore three distinct garden rooms – a Native garden, an Asiatic garden, and a Hybrid Convergence garden, speak to the diversity between cultures and the exchange of knowledge and cross-pollination at the heart of the museum. This narrative is thoughtfully expressed through multi-layered mediums including plants, water, and granite.

Two fountains activate the space and celebrate the visual and aural qualities of water, as well as its symbolic link to the museum’s collections. An inset slab of Massachusetts stone in the building’s facade, mimics the turbulent waters at the Cape of Good Hope – the museum’s roots are in the East India Marine Society, an organization of Salem captains and supercargoes who had sailed beyond either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. A thin stream of water shatters and flows over this 11-feet-tall, six-feet-wide piece of Chelmsford Granite over contours that recall
oceanic current patterns.

The Poetry Fountain references an ancient Chinese garden water feature where two lovers would communicate by floating a message down a runnel of water to their partner at the other end. Water flows from source basins at either end and pools together into a single convergence basin, celebrating the juncture of a major garden path where integrated seating allows visitors to enjoy the visual and acoustic effect.

The new Garden serves to broaden visitors’ perspectives, attitudes, and knowledge of themselves and the wider world.

Name of the project: The Peabody Essex Museum Garden
Project category: Public Project
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architect
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Architect – Ennead Architects; Lighting Designer – George Sexton; Structural Engineer – Thornton Tomasetti; Civil Engineer – Nitsch; Fountain Consultant – CMS Collaborative; Irrigation Designer – Northern Designs; Soil Consultant – Pine and Swallow Environmental Services
Project location: 161 Essex Street, Salem, Massachusetts 01970, United States
Design year: 2016 – 2019
Year Built: 2019

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