Designing a home for The Thinker and other Rodin masterpieces

The WT Landscape team recently completed a one-of-a-kind project that creates a natural home here in the Pacific Northwest for some of the world’s most iconic sculptures. The Sculpture Garden includes the first three sculptures that are part of a new installation for the LeMay Collections at Marymount, located on the historic grounds of Marymount in Tacoma, Washington.

Sprawling over 80 acres,  the former military academy is now home to three of French sculpture artist Auguste Rodin’s most well-known sculptures, cast from original foundry plasters created by Rodin’s own hands over 100 years ago, including The Thinker, Eve and The Age of Bronze. For nearly 30 years, the property has been primarily home for an antique car collection that the Guinness Book of World Records lists as the ‘Largest Privately Owned Car Collection in the World.’ The LeMay family is dedicated to the preservation of these artifacts on their land for future generations to come.

Photo of Rodin sculpture

Rodin’s The Thinker at the LeMay Collections at Marymount.

The WT team worked with the LeMay Collections at Marymount to design this unique Northwest destination utilizing historic, reclaimed elements strategically placed along a half-mile walking path.

About the Rodin Sculpture Garden Design

The sculpture garden’s design is inspired by a combination of the site’s beauty, religious history and the LeMay family’s passion for authenticity. Architectural brick details and archways found on the historic school structure inspire the primary features within the Sculpture Garden, using reclaimed materials to construct many of the garden’s elements.

Photo of Pickle barrel wood trellises

Pickle barrel wood trellises inspired by the historic school’s architectural elements.

The garden pathway is nestled within a 100-year-old Douglas Fir forest. The design embraces this natural setting, with minimal impacts to the quiet and serene quality of the site. Architectural elements were used sparingly, crafted from materials that contribute their own story; wood used in the garden’s trellises and benches was salvaged from Tacoma’s own century-old Nalley Foods pickle plant that closed in 2002, and giant sheets of steel that now serve as backdrops for the sculptures were previously stockpiled on another LeMay property. These rustic, authentic materials enhance and frame the unique setting for the Rodin sculptures.

The Kick-Off Celebration

The LeMay Collections held a Centennial Celebration on the 100th anniversary of Rodin’s death on November 15th, 2017. WT Landscape Architecture Principal Rachael Meyer and Design Principal Dan Foltz attended the celebration. Rachael kicked-off the event with a presentation about her design process and the many sources of inspiration for the Sculpture Garden’s design. Over 70 donors and patrons attended to help celebrate the special occasion.

Photo of Rachael Meyer presenting at the ceremony

Rachael Meyer presenting at the LeMay Centennial Celebration.

For WT Landscape Principal, Rachael Meyer, the opportunity to contribute to the site was very rewarding. ”This project is an authentic representation of the diversity of the LeMay Collections,” she notes. “Most people are aware that the family collects cars, but not many people know their appreciation of the artistry of the collection and the tribute the site is to the American story. Building on the juxtaposition between what is old and what is new, the success of the garden design is evident in the way it feels fully integrated into the natural setting as though the forest grew up around the figures.”

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