At A Glance
Developed as part of the Association for Public Art’s Form and Function program
Part of the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program
A sixty-foot walkway leads across a natural basin to an observation platform that rises twenty-four feet above the ground
Inspired by the universal childhood longing for a tree house
Martin Puryear’s Pavilion in the Trees is an amenity located near the Horticulture Center in West Fairmount Park. Conceived in 1981, the public artwork was developed as part of the Fairmount Park Art Association’s (now the Association for Public Art) Form and Function program. The original model included a steep set of stairs, but the artist decided to substitute a sloping ramp for aesthetic and safety reasons.
Situated high among the treetops, the work has become a much-favored place to relax and contemplate nature from a bird’s-eye view
Puryear – whose retrospective exhibition was shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1992 – worked with architect Samuel Harris, at the time with the firm Kieran Timberlake and Harris, to realize the project, which was supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Inspired by the universal childhood longing for a tree house, Pavilion consists of an open structure supported by a series of posts.
All of the materials – western red cedar, heart white oak, heart redwood – were selected for their natural durability. A sixty-foot walkway leads across a natural basin to an observation platform – a square deck covered by a latticed canopy – that rises twenty-four feet above the ground. Situated high among the treetops, the work has become a much-favored place to relax and contemplate nature from a bird’s-eye view.
Directions by Car: Exit Rt. 76 at Montgomery Drive and continue west toward Belmont Avenue. Turn left at entrance to the Horticulture Center/Japanese House and Garden. Pavilion in the Trees is in the Lansdowne Glen, behind the Horticulture Center.
Voices heard in the program:
Martin Puryear, the artist who created Pavilion in the Trees, was inspired by his childhood longing for a tree house. He is heard on archival tape courtesy Art 21, Inc.
Bob Taylor, a woodworker who specializes in custom millwork, built the canopy for Pavilion in the Trees at Martin Puryear’s direction.
Michael Auping is the Chief Curator of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas. He contributed to the volume Martin Puryear, published on the occasion of the artist’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Segment Producer: Lu Olkowski
A program of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture audio program for Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.
A “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, mobile app, audio download, or on the web – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO offers the unique histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage.
Unlike audio tours that have a single authoritative guide or narrator, each speaker featured in Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an “authentic voice” – someone who is connected to the sculpture by knowledge, experience, or affiliation. Over 150 unique voices are featured, including artists, educators, scientists, writers, curators, civic leaders, and historians.
To bridge the gap between public art and ordinary life, the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) initiated the pioneering program Form and Function in 1980. The Association invited artists to propose public art projects for Philadelphia that would be utilitarian, site-specific, and integral to community life—works that would be integrated into the public context through use as well as placement.
Each artist was asked to give meaning or identity to a place, to probe for the genius loci, or the “spirit of the place.” The Association for Public Art’s intention was to respond to the needs of a changing city, as well as to accommodate the expressions of individual artists.
This artwork is part of the Around the Horticulture Center tour