the blanton museum of art at the university of texas at austin has announced plans for the comprehensive redesign of its grounds. through architectural and landscape improvements, the initiative will unify and revitalize the museum campus, which is approximately 200,000 square feet (18,580 sqm) and contains two buildings as well as ellsworth kelly’s ‘austin’. the project is to be led by snøhetta and will feature the first major public mural commission by cuban-american artist carmen herrera.

snohetta blanton museum
view from martin luther king, jr. boulevard looking north toward the faulkner gateway and austin by ellsworth kelly, with the edgar a. smith building on left and the mari and james michener gallery building on right | all images courtesy the blanton museum of art, university of texas at austin



the centerpiece of the project is the ‘moody patio’, a gathering space between the museum’s two main buildings that is framed by 15 petal-shaped structures, creating a shade canopy at the southern edge of the blanton’s campus. referencing the arched vaults of the loggia that outline the museum, the curving outlines help highlight views of ellsworth kelly’s ‘austin’ as well as the texas state capitol beyond. the structures generate a dappled light effect during the day and are illuminated at night, creating a new visual marker.

snohetta blanton museum
view from martin luther king, jr. boulevard looking northeast toward the faulkner gateway, showing the museum café outdoor seating at left and carmen herrera mural on the right



‘the blanton holds a prominent place at the intersection of the new texas capitol complex, and it also serves as the gateway to the university campus. our inventive landscape and reimagined building entrances fulfill that promise,‘ says craig dykers, founding partner of snøhetta and alumnus of the UT school of architecture. ‘snøhetta’s design expands the museum’s world-class art collection beyond the museum’s galleries and creates a highly visible public place of — and for — the arts and austin.’

snohetta blanton museum
detail of carmen herrera mural near the entrance of the mari and james michener gallery building



the moody patio includes new landscaping, a lawn, and various seating areas. to amplify the blanton’s popular music programming, the design incorporates two raised platforms to stage live performances. the project also includes new space for outdoor dining with improvements to the current café area. a winding pathway landscaped with native plants meanders throughout, connecting all approaches to the museum and offering small garden areas and seating for relaxing and socializing.


entrances to the two museum buildings are marked by protruding vaults that echo the loggia arches and the curves of the shade canopy. the U-shaped vault addition to the michener gallery building holds an interior viewing deck that allows museum goers to gaze down upon the patio below. as part of the project, more than 25,000 new plants will be added to the grounds — 95% of which are native to texas.

snohetta blanton museum
view looking south toward the texas state capitol complex, featuring the moody patio and stage at center and new museum check-in at edgar a. smith building on right



importantly, the redesigned grounds will include a new site-specific mural by cuban-american abstract painter carmen herrera that was commissioned by the blanton with the support of the kahng foundation. sited on the interior wall under the michener gallery building’s loggia, it will span the length of the structure, with the museum’s entrance in the middle. ‘it is an honor that my first major public mural commission will be with the blanton museum of art, an institution that I have admired and respected for decades,’ herrera said. ‘as a museum that has long been at the forefront of collecting work by artists of latin american descent, as well as the place where ellsworth kelly realized his last great work of art, entering the collection at this moment marks a high point in my long career.’

snøhetta to redesign the blanton museum's grounds in texas with petal-shaped structures
view looking northeast toward austin by ellsworth kelly, showing museum café seating on left, and carmen herrera mural and inverted vault at mari and james michener gallery building entrance on the right



‘I believe that landscape has the power to transform a community, very much in the way that great art can transform our hearts and minds,’ says the museum’s director, simone wicha. ‘the new grounds initiative will transform the blanton, opening the museum into the city, inviting people in not just to see great art, but also to linger, gather, and be inspired before and after each visit. we want to create a destination — a beloved destination – for families, students, tourists, and art lovers alike.’ construction is scheduled to begin in early 2021 with a virtual groundbreaking event taking place on february 18, 2021. the project is set to complete by late 2022 with the museum remaining open throughout.



project info:


name: new grounds initiative at the blanton museum of art
location: the blanton museum of art at the university of texas at austin
design: snøhetta
artwork: carmen herrera
status: groundbreaking set for february 18, 2021, completion scheduled for late 2022