Michael Graves & Associates (MGA) has designed Newark's new downtown city green space for the Newark Museum. Horizon Plaza, the 11,000-square-foot garden will create a welcoming new vista for visitors to the Museum's campus and a unique urban landscape for Newark's James Street Commons Historic District and the Washington Park neighborhood.
Located along the intersection of Washington Street and Central Avenue at the southeast corner of the Museum campus, the concept for Horizon Plaza utilizes a "Memory-Clue" framework. Rather than creating a literal reminder of the properties that once stood on the site, including the 1858 Polhemus House, the concept is an abstract design with a mixture of hardscape and softscape features that provide visual, tactile "memory clues" to the history of the site. The major interstitial spaces of the plaza level are articulated in large masonry pavers to add elegant areas for people to stroll and gather.
The dynamic landscape design of Horizon Plaza includes indigenous, sustainable plantings that evoke the footprint of the parlor floor of the Polhemus House and the locations of other prior residential and commercial building yards. These features are represented by open spaces planted with grasses, shrubs, ground covers, and lawns, native to Essex County, such as "Karley Rose" Fountain Grass, Blue Chip Buddleia, and the daylilies known as "Pardon Me" and "Big Time Happy" that will grow and change with the seasons, loosely referencing the architectural evolution of this built-up urban site as it changed over time.
The new plaza is framed with an iron fence and lined with perimeter trees, featuring Sango-Kaku (coral bark) Japanese maple trees and flowering Bradford Pear trees to complement the existing tree line on the site's north side.
Masonry pavers with bench-style seating will provide elegant internal spaces along which people may stroll and gather. Steel and marble-topped structures reference the marble hearths of long ago, accompanied by interpretive signage panels further conveying the history of the site. A large scale, etched masonry panel announcing Horizon Plaza marks the corner of the historic site, a prominent focal point that both celebrates the Horizon Foundation gift and announces the gateway to the Newark Museum.