Exterior Improvement Project

Image rendering of the driveway and entrance of the museum, with landscaped walkways and figures along the path

Rendering of the Museum’s new main entrance and accessible pedestrian path, courtesy of SWA

Later this year and into 2025, Museum visitors will notice construction work happening around our exterior spaces as we perform some much-needed site improvements. Our partner in this project is Architectural Resources Group (ARG), known for their work on such sites as Pasadena City Hall, the Pasadena Conservatory of Music and the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens. ARG has enlisted an outstanding team of specialists, including the landscape architecture firm SWA and the signage firm Hunt Design, among others. Together, we have been working over the past two years to better align the experience of entering our site with the beauty and elegance of our galleries and Sculpture Garden.

The Museum’s building, designed in the 1960s by local firm Ladd & Kelsey for the Pasadena Art Museum, is noteworthy for its distinctive curved exterior walls, clad in approximately 115,000 ceramic tiles designed by Edith Heath from Heath Ceramics. In the late 1990s, more than 20 years after the museum switched to become the Norton Simon Museum, the interior galleries were extensively remodeled by architect Frank Gehry to create a more suitable space for the Norton Simon collections. At the same time, the Sculpture Garden was transformed by Nancy Goslee Power with a design intended to evoke Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. The Museum’s main entrance walkway was refreshed to create a seamless transition as visitors move into the galleries and out into the Sculpture Garden.

Image rendering of the driveway and entrance of the museum, with landscaped walkways and figures along the sidewalk

Rendering of the Museum’s new main entrance and signage, courtesy of SWA

Our upcoming project will primarily address several areas that were not part of this work. Most noticeably, there will be improvements along Colorado Boulevard, including new signage on the building and near the main driveway, an accessible pedestrian path from Colorado Boulevard to the entrance, new gates and security walls for the driveways and walkway, a wider east driveway and climate-appropriate landscaping. Enhanced lighting for the pedestrian and vehicular entryways will provide a safer experience during evening hours.

Two women standing in front of a brown tiled wall with their backs turned to the viewer, the woman on the left holds up a brown tile against the wall and the woman on the right takes a photograph of this action

Conservation study of the Museum’s tiles, photo by Elon Schoenholz

Another component of our project is a conservation initiative to study, clean and repair the unique Heath tiles on the building’s exterior. A pilot project led by ARG conservator Sarah Devan, conducted last fall, has provided us with a better understanding of the current condition of the tile. For pieces that are missing or too damaged to repair, we are working with Heath Ceramics to re-create Edith Heath’s trademark textures and glazes on replacement tiles.

A rendering of an outdoor garden with figures sittings on tables and benches and walking along a paved path surrounded by green foliage.

Rendering of the Museum’s Sculpture Garden, courtesy of SWA

Our Sculpture Garden, long a beloved destination for visitors, will also be undergoing some improvements. Planned work includes refurbished paths and hardscape in the Café area, additional seating, new plantings in areas that have died back because of drought and irrigation issues, pond repair work and a new wall along the south and west perimeter of the garden. Nancy Goslee Power’s overall design and the experience of visiting the garden will remain unchanged.

We look forward to updating you on this exciting initiative in the months ahead.

—Leslie C. Denk, Vice President of External Affairs
This article first appeared in the Museum’s Summer 2024 Newsletter.