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Meijer Gardens celebrates new Welcome Center with soft open

The $115 million expansion project furthers the organization's mission of horticulture, sculpture, the natural environment and the arts.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park's new Welcome Center is finally opening to the public. 

There will be a soft opening of the 69,000 square-foot building at 9 a.m. on Monday. 

Meijer Gardens said the new Welcome Center enhances the arrival, admission and orientation experience for guests, and features Contemporary sculpture as well as horticultural elements throughout. 

The soft opening on Monday means that not all areas of the building will be open and accessible. Meijer Gardens said the Welcome Center won't fully open until fall of 2021, when a celebration and dedication is planned.

"The magnificent new Welcome Center is made possible by the generosity of Fred & Lena Meijer, the extended Meijer family and hundreds of individuals, companies and foundations. 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," said President & CEO David Hooker. "Our architects, artists and garden designers have created a place to experience our mission that is truly world-class."

Located at the beginning of the 158-acre main campus, the Welcome Center complements the glass architectural lines of the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory and serves as the place for guests to purchase tickets or a membership, view an orientation film and receive information about their visit. The design ties together the many parts of Meijer Gardens.

The Welcome Center is comprised of two levels, the Main Level and the lower Courtyard Level. Main Level exterior and interior highlights 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 complimentary wheelchairs and electric carts, O-A-K Theater and the Garden Pavilion, featuring breathtaking horticultural displays and a stunning new sculpture titled Utopia by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. The Garden Pavilion is scheduled to open later this year. Courtyard Level highlights include 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 that is naturally lit from above.

The new Welcome Center and recently completed Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater and related facilities were designed by award-winning architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.

"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 continued. "The facilities that they have designed for Meijer Gardens show their highly developed talents and will be enjoyed by many generations."

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien are internationally renowned for their designs. They are the visionaries behind the iconic Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, which contains the most significant collection of Impressionist and early modern art in the world. Along with the Meijer Gardens expansion, their current work also includes the new U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, the renovation of David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City, and the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, Chicago.

"For me, our work for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park has been a chance to revisit lessons from my childhood, lived and learned growing up in Michigan and the Cranbrook Community," said Tod Williams. "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," added Billie Tsien.

In addition to horticultural details throughout, the Welcome Center will feature prominent works of Contemporary sculpture by celebrated international artists: Jaume Plensa, George Segal, Yinka Shonibare CBE RA, El Anatsui, Kenneth Snelson, Alexander Calder and Marshall Fredericks, whose work first caught the eye of Fred Meijer and began his passion for collecting sculpture. The exterior and Frey Foundation Plaza leading into the Welcome Center will feature sculpture by Marshall Fredericks, Tony Cregg, Manuel Neri and Henri Laurens.

More than 12 million people from around the world have joined in this love story by visiting since Meijer Gardens first opened in 1995.

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