Walmart heirs hope the Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program will ramp up architectural standards in the state

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville (Courtesy The Walton Family Foundation/Drew Harris)

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville (Courtesy Drew Harris)

In a bid to bolster an economic and population boom in Northwest Arkansas, plans are afoot to shore up and streamline the region’s architecture and landscape design. The Walton Family Foundation recently announced the launch of the Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program, in which previously vetted architects and public-space projects will receive financial support from the foundation at every stage of the design phase.

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Marlon Blackwell Weaves Plywood At The Crystal Bridges Museum

Friday, February 1, 2013
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(Timothy Hursley)

(Timothy Hursley)

Marlon Blackwell uses ribbed ceiling to evoke craft while mitigating contemporary challenges at Arkansas museum.

The setting for the gift shop at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art seems idyllic—a vast glass wall opens onto a entry courtyard that gives way to a placid pond reflecting the Ozarks landscape. But to create a design for the 3,100 square-foot space in Bentonville, Arkansas, architect Marlon Blackwell had to overcome multiple hurdles. The first: a thicket of concrete columns supporting the green roof of the Moshe Safdie-designed building. Next: the west-facing glass wall, which made heat gain an issue. And finally: the very small budget (the total project cost was $644,000).

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