In the middle of an urban forest, the Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion quietly beckons

In Indianapolis, Indiana, United States (U.S.), the Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion silently slips into the landscape and lightly makes it mark upon the earth. Designed by Marlon Blackwell Architect, the 1,290sqft winner of the 2011 ARCHITECT Annual Design Review takes its inspiration from the form and structure of a fallen leaf.

Doubling as both destination and threshold of within the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s sprawling 100-acre Virginia B Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, the pavilion gently engages visitors by extending its long ramps to the sweeping walking paths and slowly lifting people from the forest floor and onto the main deck.

Slats of ipe wood, also known as Brazilian walnut, fold back on themselves across the angular deck to from an overarching canopy that allows both sun and rain through while also encasing a multipurpose room and supporting spaces like a kitchen, restrooms, and office collected within a fire-resistant core clad in a charred cedar rainscreen. A curtainwall made of glass exposes the inside of the structure to the surrounding environs.

While the park is susceptible to floodwaters from the adjacent White River, the pavilion takes up barely a half-acre of land – a fifth of a hectare – and is flanked on both sides with berms made of the encircling earth. Columns painted the colour of the local fauna lift the deck off the ground and give visitors the impression that the structure hovers just slightly above the land.


Architect: Marlon Blackwell Architect
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Year of completion: 2010
Photo credits: Architect Magazine, The Indianapolis Museum of Art


Sources: Architect Magazine, The Indianapolis Museum of Art