Event Design Talks

April 13, 2021 - 12:00pm

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image courtesy of Snøhetta


Creating a Community Space: Redefining the Blanton Museum of Art through Art, Architecture, and Landscape

Director of the Blanton Museum of Art, Simone Wicha, will be in conversation with John Newman, director at Snøhetta, and Matt McMahon, director of landscape architecture at Snøhetta, about the museum’s new grounds initiative, which will open to the public in late 2022. Wicha will discuss the Blanton’s long-term goal of strengthening the visitor experience and engagement with the museum’s grounds through bringing the museum’s program into its outdoor spaces. Newman will focus architectural innovations to the Blanton’s campus, and McMahon will share how transformations in the landscape feed into the project’s larger goals. 

The presentation will include process drawings, renderings, and photographs of the Blanton’s current grounds and architectural challenges.


Matt McMahon is a director of Landscape Architecture at Snøhetta. He has focused his career exploring the intersection of landscape, architecture, and ecology. He holds degrees in biology and landscape architecture from  Penn State University, and a Masters of Architecture from Princeton. With this multidisciplinary background he brings an interdisciplinary approach to his work at Snøhetta's New York office. In addition to his work on the Blanton, Matt currently leads the design of the Willamette Falls Riverwalk in Oregon City, OR, and a Folk Art School and Park in Decorah Iowa. He previously led construction efforts on the grounds of Snøhetta’s recently opened public library in Calgary. Prior to his work at Snøhetta, Matt has worked for Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Hargeaves Associates, Grimshaw Architects, and Stan Allen Architect. At each of these design practices his work has focused on public space, and the interweaving of site, architecture, community, and ecology.

John Newman joined Snøhetta as director in 2019, where his primary responsibility has been leading the design and project management of the 2.3-million square foot new Ford Design Center in Dearborn, MI. Between 2012 and 2017 John was Principal at Diller Scofidio + Renfro, where he managed three combined projects: 15 Hudson Yards, The Shed, and the adjacent High Line Phase 4. John was previously the founding partner of Lindsay Newman Architecture & Design. Over the 20 years of that practice he designed the Liberty National Golf Club and Guest Houses, the Stonecroft Gallery and the DeRegt Learning Center at Eagle Hill School along with several dozen private residences and numerous commercial workplaces. He has also worked at Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, and Frank O. Gehry & Associates. His focus has always been evolving construction technology, quality control and the translation of ideas into meaningful, experiential artifacts.

Simone Wicha has served as director of the Blanton since 2011. Since then she has raised the museum’s profile nationally by bringing Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin to the Blanton and building an exceptional team of curators and educators, while also establishing the Blanton as Austin’s art museum. Under her leadership, the Blanton has developed groundbreaking exhibitions, reinstalled the presentation of its permanent collection in all of its galleries, diversified and grown its holdings, and nearly doubled its annual attendance. She has been committed to strengthening the Blanton's educational mission, and in the past decade the museum has expanded its K–12 and UT Austin partnerships; classes from every college and department at UT currently utilize the museum as a laboratory. Re-envisioning the Blanton’s grounds has been a priority of Wicha since she became director, and she is currently leading a project with Snøhetta and artist Carmen Herrera to transform visitors’ arrival at museum and their engagement with outdoor spaces. With 25 years of experience as a leader at various arts organizations, including as the Blanton’s deputy director prior to becoming director, and previously at the Noguchi Museum, The Juilliard School, and the Hispanic Heritage Awards at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Wicha is passionate about building arts institutions to achieve excellence. Wicha was born in Texas and raised in Mexico City.

This event is free and open to the public, or offers CE credit with a paid ticket. 1 LU HSW

Design Talks is AIA Austin's annual speaker series comprising five events that appeal to architects and design enthusiasts from the greater public. This year’s speakers will include designers from across the globe.
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