Arnold Arboretum
Shrub and Vine Collection
Boston, Massachusetts

The Arnold Arboretum shrub and vine collection is situated on three acres of land owned by Harvard University. The project calls for the expansion of the arboretum’s research and evaluation activities, and opportunities for one-on-one study of plant growth, habitat, and culture. The overall spatial sequence is one of continual discovery and disclosure, alternating between the intimacy of the planted terraces and the expansiveness of the central lawn. The pavilion and armatures are not conceived of as objects; rather, they are structures that refocus the gaze on nature and the surrounding gardens. The pavilion construction is minimalist and is used for weddings, classes, and other outdoor events.

The topography of the site, with its gradated slopes, is converted into a series of level terraces of varying dimensions. The proposed design allows for multiple progressions that maximize use of the land and opportunities for collection and display. The plan is organic and spatially rich, evoking both the botanical traditions of parterre gardens and the intricate patterns found in nature – whether the branching of trees or the veined configurations of insect wings.

Arnold Arboretum Vine Collection Landscape Design

The terraces of the vine collection

In the tradition of horticultural display gardens, the plan has a strong organizing structure that is visually understandable from many prospects within and outside the garden. The pavilion offers a locus or center for the garden that provides views of the entire collection.

Arnold Arboretum Pavilion Roof Design Detail

Pavilion roof detail

Arnold Arboretum Landscape Design Vine Collection

Terraced stone walls climb the natural sloping landscape

The insertion of a retaining wall defines the uppermost terrace of the garden and delimits the new collection from the nursery, greenhouse, and Bonsai display. A long swath of lawn that cuts across various terrace levels further organizes the garden, providing space for movement and repose.