New Orleans Museum of Art Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Photo courtesy of Richard Sexton
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Situated within historic City Park in New Orleans, NOMA’s expanded sculpture garden establishes continuity with adjacent conditions to reflect the picturesque character of the lagoon system and plantings that evoke Louisiana’s riparian and coastal landscapes.

Working with the collectors, museum staff, artists, and architect Lee Ledbetter and Associates Reed Hilderbrand’s work evokes the distinctive character of the New Orleans riparian landscape while incorporating features such as the “canal walk,” with its walking surface set below the water-level of the lagoon, an outdoor amphitheater and stage, a sculpture pavilion and an outdoor classroom, alongside 26 new works of sculptures. Two of these are site-specific and commissioned for the garden: Elyn Zimmerman’s Glass Bridge and Teresita Fernández’s tile mosaic wall.

This expansion adds 6.5 acres to the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, embracing the mature groves and water characteristic of City Park as a setting for experiencing art. Works are arranged in the open lawn, under tree canopies, across open water, on cypress islands, and within understory planting, all connected by pedestrian bridges designed to complement the landscape. The new garden connects to the existing Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden by a “canal walk”. Three hundred feet in length, this structure dips into the lagoon, taking visitors down to the waterline and creating the unique experience of walking through water.

Manipulation of the existing waterbody enhances spatial experience and accommodates innovative water management strategies, including daylighting of stormwater flows to the lagoon system and treatment of roadway runoff through infiltration gardens. The planting strategy evokes the ecotypes of the region, controls views, creates spaces, and provides continuity to adjacent park.

The expansion also offers the opportunity to expand museum programming. To accommodate this growth, the sculpture garden integrates an amphitheater and stage for musical, theatrical, and cultural programming, as well as a sculpture pavilion. The pavilion, designed by collaborator Lee Ledbetter, serves as a complement to the garden’s installations, as an interior exhibition space overlooking the lagoon.


New Orleans, Louisiana




6.5 acres




  • NOMA sculpture garden extension features outdoor theatre and submerged walkway, DEZEEN, July 2019
  • Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art | The Architect’s Newspaper | October/November 2019