Ramping Up

Glorious Austin sculpture park becomes accessible to all abilities for first time

Glorious Austin sculpture park becomes accessible to all abilities

Austin Laguna Gloria ramp
The ramp at the Contemporary Austin's Laguna Gloria campus brings form and function to the landscape. Rendering courtesy of Dwg
Austin Laguna Gloria ramp
A nighttime view of the new ADA-compliant feature. Rendering courtesy of Dwg
Austin Laguna Gloria ramp
The ramp connects the upper and lower portions of the beautiful Austin sculpture park. Rendering courtesy of Dwg
Austin Laguna Gloria ramp
Austin Laguna Gloria ramp
Austin Laguna Gloria ramp

A new zig-zagging ramp at The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria won’t just tie together the landscape — although it does do that, using angles to create a striking geometric feature in a cluster of greenery leading to Lake Austin. It also complies with standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), connecting the upper and lower grounds to all visitors for the very first time.

The Contemporary, Strata Landscape, and Dwg architects broke ground on the project on July 5, using funds from “a Heritage Tourism Grant from the City of Austin, a generous gift from Laura and Rex Bohls, and support from Stratus Properties,” according to a press release. The 340-foot switchback ramp doubles back twice over a staircase straight down the slope, creating two sharp triangles on either side and blending the stairs and ramp — both made of concrete — into one harmonious design.

This plan replaces an existing staircase, which is narrower and notably steep, creating potential difficulty for any visitor who missteps, or simply prefers to pay more attention to the beautiful surroundings than what’s happening underfoot. Although the existing stairs were unobtrusive compared to the thicket around them, they were a mostly uninteresting addition to the landscape.

Laguna Gloria is known for its permanent outdoor sculptures, most notably a tall, cartoonish human figure gazing up at the sky, made of crinkly-looking stainless steel by artist Tom Friedman. The upper grounds contain this statue and Driscoll Villa, the 1916 Italianate home of philanthropist Clara Driscoll; the lower grounds form a sculpture park trail in the trees along the water.

“This project creates a legacy of unbelievable significance,” says Sharon Maidenberg, the Ernest and Sarah Butler executive director and CEO of the Contemporary Austin in the release. “The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria is a place for quiet contemplation of art and nature, where our visitors can roam and explore. … The new ADA-compliant ramp represents a huge step toward removing a major access barrier to this civic treasure.”

In addition to regular museum visitors and art school students, Laguna Gloria welcomes more than 7,000 K-12 students each year, experiencing and creating contemporary art during cross-curricular field trips with their schools. Tickets ($10 for adults) and information about private events are available at thecontemporaryaustin.org.