Art and Infrastructure: Community, Culture, and a Collection in the Berkshires



Williamstown, MA | Reed Hilderbrand LLC | Client: The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute


Spanning fourteen years and three phases of construction, our renewal of the Clark Art Institute campus expands public access to its unique landscape, brings new significance to its natural and cultural resources, and enriches the Clark’s capacity to realize its educational mission. It is a project of simple materials and broad forms that draw from and intensify the Clark’s deeply beloved rural setting. Building within and upon the larger regional patterns of hydrology and topography, the strongly figured landscape unites disparate architectural works into a singular campus. Asserting strong functional and visual criteria, we built an intensively engineered landscape of integrated soils, water, and vegetative systems that improves native woodland and stream corridor conditions, reduces resource demands, and expands the Clark’s understanding of its own commitment to landscape stewardship.


Mission, Culture, and Performance

In 2001, following a strategic and facilities planning process, the Clark assembled a multi-disciplinary design team to reconceive its campus and renew its infrastructure, the flagship project of its goal to enhance its academic and cultural leadership position. Through multiple economic downturns over the last thirteen years, the Clark has never relented on its vision, improving visitor amenities, accommodating contemporary collections standards, enhancing teaching resources, and repairing a depleted landscape in three phases of construction, culminating in a grand re-opening in July 2014.

Mission—Art in Nature

The Clark’s mission explicitly links the interpretation of its collection to its landscape context. In 2001, however, the Museum-going public visited only a small fraction of the 140-acre campus and it was mostly understood as a passive backdrop for viewing its pastoral art. Commencing with a master plan for the entire landholding, we gave the landscape voice, highlighting its natural and cultural content and framing new, more nuanced ways for the landscape to contribute to the visitor experience. Today the entirety of its 140 acres is accessible, aided by new trails and distributed program. The landscape is now fully considered part of the collection — equally foregrounding the pastoral meadows and the precisely rendered and expressive landscape of the campus core.

Culture—A Common

The Clark’s landscape has always been understood as semi-public, serving local residents and the Williams College community. Enhancing this relationship, we developed over a mile of new trails to link the adjacent neighborhood more fully with the Berkshires’ extensive trail network. The broad lawns, generous terraces, and central reflecting pools, which are used for winter skating, all refocus the campus into a center for social and cultural events—a regional common for the Berkshires.

Performance—A Working Landscape

Cows have grazed the Clark’s Stone Hill Meadow for generations and the Clark has always seen itself as a steward of a working landscape. In the first phase of this project, we implemented a significant stormwater management program to improve the health of woodland streams. In the process, we uncovered a new relationship for the Clark with its previously marginalized hydrological resources. In the final phase we transformed the architect’s vision for the tiered reflecting pools from a purely visual element into a working one. The functional centerpiece of a deeply connected water system linking foundation and roof drains, HVAC makeup, plumbing, and irrigation, the pools now save the Clark over a million gallons a year in potable water.

Continuity and Strength

As the lead landscape architect, working directly for the Clark from master planning through construction, we bridged the work of three architects working on strikingly different buildings, to deliver a singular campus experience for its visitors. We defined the landscape as an active foreground to the institution. We took cues from the extraordinary landscape context, building a robust and expressive set of earthworks and waterways, pathways and places, and plantations and grasslands that embeds the architecture in something larger than itself, enriches the experience of the site, and enhances the Clark’s ability to realize its mission.

"Here we see the investment of a cultural institution in its stunning natural environment that is as important as the work inside its galleries."

- 2015 Awards Jury


Landscape Architects:
Reed Hilderbrand LLC
Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA
Eric Kramer, ASLA
Beka Sturges, ASLA
Elizabeth Randall, ASLA

Design Architects:
Tadao Ando Architects and Associates
Selldorf Architects

Water Feature Consultant: Dan Euser Waterarchitecture
Waterproofing Consultant: James R. Gainfort Associates
Soils Consultant: Pine and Swallow Environmental
Lighting Consultant: ARUP
Structural Engineer: Buro Happold
Civil Engineer: Guntlow and Associates, Inc.
MEP: Altieri Sebor Wieber, LLC
Architect of Record: Gensler


Plant List

Canopy Trees
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)
Red Oak (Quercus bicolor)
White Willow (Salix alba)
Princeton Elm (Ulmus americana ‘Princeton’)
Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)
Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
American Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)
White Oak (Quercus alba)

Understory Trees
Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)
Ironwood (Carpinus caroliniana)
Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alterniflora)
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Carolina silverbell (Halesia tetraptera)
American Holly (Ilex opaca)
Common Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Thicket Trees
Paper Birch (Betulus papyrifera)
Gray Birch (Betulus populifolia)
Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Groundcover, Grasses and Meadow Plantings
Bowman’s Root (Gillenia trifoliate)
Upland Bentgrass (Agrostis perennans)
Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix)
Sheep Fescue (Festuca ovina)
Creeping Red Fescue (Festuca rubra)
Annual Ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum)
Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perrenne)
Creeping Bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera)
Canada Bluejoint (Calmagrostis canadensis)
Riverbank Wild Rye (Elymus riparius)
Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus)
Eastern Gamma Grass (Tripsacum dactyloides)
Redtop (Agrostis alba)
Chufa/Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus)
Alene Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis)
Ureka II Hard Fescue (Trifolium repens)
Little Bluestem (Andropogon scoparius)
Broom Sedge (Andropogon virginicus)
Side Oats Grama (Bouteloua curipendula)
Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracius)
Bird’s Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea)