Look What’s Blooming at the Peabody Essex Museum
PEM’s new 5,000-square-foot garden delights all the senses
When the doors swing open to the public to reveal Peabody Essex Museum’s $125M addition, our regional treasure will be buzzing. The 40,000-square-foot expansion, designed by New York-based Ennead Architects features three floors of new dedicated gallery space. Visitors will encounter dynamic installations of the museum’s robust collections, including maritime, Asian export art, and fashion and design, plus new exhibitions, new work by commissioned artists, and more opportunities to encounter art in public spaces on the Salem, Massachusetts, campus.
If all this wonder sounds a bit overwhelming, not to worry. Visitors can find a literal breath of fresh air in the expansion’s gorgeous 5,000-square-foot garden where they can rejoice in the splendor of nature while enjoying a moment of reflection.
Coastal Design took a preview tour of this garden oasis before its public opening on September 28. We took in the perfumed scent of Agastache as bumblebees danced around the blossoms. “It is extremely poetic,” Brian Kennedy, the new Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo director and CEO of the Peabody Essex, told us, noting the range of plantings that will change throughout the seasons and cautioning us not to try to experience it all at once.
“The 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’s purpose,” says Mark Strieter, senior associate at Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The new gardens shadow the beginnings of PEM, when in 1799 international captains who had sailed to Asia from Salem formed the East India Marine Society and Asiatic culture united with North American. “All three garden spaces offer much to see as the gardens progress from spring ephemerals, through summer and fall flowering plants, shrubs and trees into the solitude of winter with structure and evergreens being the focus,“ said Robin Pydynkowski, head gardener at PEM.
“A fundamental goal from the outset of the design process was to create a sense of the unexpected and a moment of respite from the museum interior,” says Strieter. “In contrast to the surrounding gallery format, the garden emphasizes sensorial rather than cognitive experience through the sound of flowing water, the movement of the plants, the variety in material textures, and the light within.”
“In contrast to the surrounding gallery format, the garden emphasizes sensorial rather than cognitive experience through the sound of flowing water, the movement of the plants, the variety in material textures, and the light within.”
A ribbon of stone weaves from inside the atrium out and through the garden, inviting visitors to follow its path and explore three distinct garden rooms. Two modern water features celebrate the wonders of water, as well as its connection to the museum’s collections. The Poetry Fountain honors an ancient Chinese garden water feature where lovers would communicate by floating a message down a runnel of water to a partner at the other end. We imagine this to be a great spot to propose, deliver happy news, or joyfully share a message with a child who is learning to read. The garden is emblematic of the creativity, inclusiveness and celebration of life happening at the #newPEM. “Take a moment to step into the gardens,” says Pydynkowski. “They are here for all.”
The new wing is scheduled to open September 28, 2019. For the latest information about admission, visit the PEM website.