Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park had a soft opening of its new 69,000-square-foot Welcome Center at 9 a.m. Monday.
The Welcome Center is where guests can purchase tickets or membership, view an orientation film and receive information about their visit. The center also features contemporary sculpture and horticultural elements.
“The magnificent new Welcome Center is made possible by the generosity of Fred and Lena Meijer; the extended Meijer family; and hundreds of individuals, companies and foundations,” Frederik Meijer Gardens President and CEO David Hooker said. “The Welcome Center was created in response to an unprecedented embrace of our mission as reflected in our attendance, membership and donor base growth. Our appreciation is deep and sincere. Our architects, artists and garden designers have created a place to experience our mission that is truly world class.”
Award-winning architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien designed the Welcome Center. It has two levels, the main level and the lower level, which is also known as the courtyard level.
The main level will include an expanded and relocated Peter C. and Emajean Cook Entryway, PNC Portico, expanded and relocated Ram’s Garden, Daniel and Pamella DeVos Ticketing Center, expanded coat room and restrooms, a Mobility Center for wheelchairs and electric carts, O-A-K Theater and the Garden Pavilion that features horticultural displays and a new sculpture titled “Utopia” by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. The Garden Pavilion is scheduled to open later this year.
The courtyard level will have an expanded and relocated Peter M. Wege Library, archives and storage, Lievense Indoor Eating Area and a Courtyard Level garden named Mimi’s Garden, featuring a glass-enclosed sunken garden.
“Tod and Billie represent the best of everything. They are widely recognized as some of the premier architects of cultural institutions in the world,” Hooker said. “The facilities that they have designed for Meijer Gardens show their highly developed talents and will be enjoyed by many generations.”
The Welcome Center will feature works of contemporary sculptures. The exterior and Frey Foundation Plaza leading into the Welcome Center will feature sculptures by international artists Marshall Fredericks, Tony Cregg, Manuel Neri and Henri Laurens.
“For me, our work for Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park has been a chance to revisit lessons from my childhood, lived and learned growing up in Michigan and the Cranbrook Community,” Williams said. “Landscape, architecture and art are held in a fine balance. It has been a gift to add to this remarkable and beloved community.”
“Making a place where all people can experience beauty is the best of all possible work to do,” Tsien added.
Monday’s soft opening event will not showcase all of the areas of the building, and the Welcome Center officially will open in the fall.
The Welcome Center is a part of Welcoming the World: Honoring a Legacy of Love capital campaign. The $115 million capital campaign funded completed projects such as Covenant Learning Center, Peter C. and Emajean Pat Cook Transportation Center, an expanded and upgraded Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater, Frey Foundation Plaza, Meijer-Shedleski Picnic Pavilion and expanded parking lots.