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Marlon Blackwell to Design Crystal Bridges Museum Store

The retail experience at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be shaped by local hardwoods, local craftsmen and an award-winning local architect, Marlon Blackwell. Blackwell’s design proposal for the Museum Store interior centers on a suspended ribbed ceiling and millwork that distills the organic curves of the Museum complex, designed by the internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie.

“The tactility and warmth of Marlon Blackwell’s design will help us meet one of our primary goals for the Museum Store – to provide an inviting shopping experience for our guests,” said Don Bacigalupi, executive director. “We’re also pleased by the flexibility and practicality of his scheme.”

“We’re seeking to extend and enhance the geometries that Moshe Safdie is working with,” Marlon Blackwell said. “This is a great opportunity to create a dialog between the architecture, retail and art experience.”

Challenged by the curved geometry of the space, Blackwell and his design partners Meryati Blackwell and Michael Pope found inspiration in the white oak baskets woven by Ozark artist Leon Niehues and the repeated elements found in the architecture of E. Fay Jones – AIA gold medalist who lived, taught and worked in the Ozarks for more than 50 years. Ultimately, the delicate fins that define the underside of a mushroom cap provided an organizing principle for the design. A series of parallel cherry plywood ribs will be suspended from the ceiling, filtering the abundant sunlight from the Store’s western exposure. The ribs will undulate across the space and curve to form walls that can flexibly accommodate shelving, lighting and storage. Fabric-covered display walls provide color and texture and carve out zones for book browsing and reading at one end of the shop and a children’s activity area at the other. A modular system of nesting tables and display towers facilitate flexible display of merchandise.

Located adjacent to the courtyard entrance to Crystal Bridges, the 3,000-square-foot store will offer products ranging from items inspired by works in the Museum collection to original artwork by regional artists in a variety of media. Planning for the Store has been guided by Andrew Andoniadis of Andoniadis Retail Services, based in Portland, Oregon.

Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, is a nationally and internationally recognized professor and practicing architect. The recipient of numerous design awards from the American Institute of Architects and the ar + d prize from Architectural Review, Blackwell’s work has been documented in An Architecture of the Ozarks: The Works of Marlon Blackwell (Princeton Architectural Press, 2005) and The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture (2004 & 2008). Notable works by his firm include the Keenan Tower House in Fayetteville, Ark., Blessings Golf Club House in Johnson, Ark. and the Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion, part of the 100-acre Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, which opened in June at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Blackwell has also designed retail environments for Masons shops and the Wedington Liquor Store and Cigar Shop in Fayetteville, Ark.

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