New parking garage at Crystal Bridges forerunner of changes to come

Six stories tall, the new Crystal Bridges parking garage adjacent to the Scott Family Amazeum on Museum Way, will offer free parking for 800 cars, but there are plans for retail space, a café/bar, a proscenium with two levels of program and engagement space and more when it’s completed in 2024. (Courtesy Photo/Crystal Bridges Museum)

At first glance, it might appear to be just a six-story parking garage — even though it’s clad in vibrant teal. But there’s more to the new structure on Museum Way next to the Scott Family Amazeum than free spaces for 800 cars.

It’s an extension of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer, says the opening event Wednesday morning celebrating the campus parking complex is just the beginning.

“As Northwest Arkansas increases access to quality-of-life amenities, we are excited to activate our grounds in new ways and create a more dynamic, cultural ecosystem on our campus that expands art, nature, architecture and play,” he said in an interview Monday. “So opening the parking garage is just phase one of expanding this particular area of our campus.”

Announced in October 2020, the parking deck designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects will include retail space, a cafe/bar, a proscenium with two levels of program and engagement space and more when it’s completed in 2024. It’s intended to serve not just Crystal Bridges, but its North Forest Trail and Listening Forest plus the Amazeum and a future four-acre “community playscape” called Convergence.

“Together with the programmable space of the new parking deck, we’re working to create a new gathering hub for people to enjoy,” Bigelow said. “Convergence will be a robust, outdoor, family play space inspired by arts, science, nature and design, inclusive for guests of all ages. The space will invite visitors to step off the trail and into a park that uses the natural surroundings to engage the senses with interactive elements and water features that mimic the Ozark landscape.”

It’s also reflective of the changing dynamics of biking and walking culture in Northwest Arkansas.

“This new space isn’t limited to only those who visit the area in cars,” Bigelow said, pointing out there is bike parking as well. “We recognize cycling and pedestrian activity will continue to increase on surrounding trails, and the complex will feature attractions for those folks as well.”

According to a 2020 Walton Family Foundation trail use report, the region reported a 10% increase in cycling and a 2% increase in pedestrian activity on the trails between 2017 and 2019 and an increase of 24% in cycling activity and 10% between 2015 and 2017.

Meanwhile, there’s already new art that comes with the structure. “Congruence” by HYBYCOZO went on view when the parking complex opened to the public. The work is located on the facility’s Sky Terrace.

Spokeswoman Michelle Moore described the 21-foot-tall “Congruence,” which will be lighted at night, as “a beacon on the facility’s skyscape. Comprised of interlocking forms called truncated octahedrons, ‘Congruence’ borrows inspiration from the natural world, casting light and shadow, and bathing the parking complex in geometric beauty.”