For the first time in its more than 100-year history, all visitors to the fourteen-acre art-in-nature site have access to both the manicured lawn and gardens of its “upper grounds”—near the entrance and around the historic Driscoll Villa—and the wooded “lower grounds” of the site, which wind along the shore of Lake Austin and are home to many of the permanent outdoor sculptures in the museum’s collection. Made possible by a Heritage Tourism Grant from the City of Austin, a generous gift from Laura and Rex Bohls, and support from Stratus Properties, the ADA ramp transforms the experience of more than 30,000 visitors each year, allowing those who require mobility aids, families with stroller-age children, and more to access most of the site.
The ramp project is designed by dwg. architects and Strata Landscape. Comprised of poured and precast concrete, the ramp gently zigzags down the sloped site, crisscrossing a new, wider staircase of precast concrete pavers. Native landscaping and a program of gentle downlighting along the new path will maintain the natural and historic character for which Laguna Gloria is known among locals and cultural tourists. The project will support The Contemporary Austin’s long-term vision to develop Laguna Gloria into one of the region’s top cultural destinations.
The new ADA ramp replaces the existing stone staircase on the west side of the Driscoll Villa, leading down toward Lake Austin. With an extremely steep grade and uneven stone steps, the staircase is difficult for all visitors to navigate safely and makes access to the lower grounds nearly impossible for those who require mobility aids. The previous staircase was not included in Laguna Gloria’s historical designation.
“This project creates a legacy of unbelievable significance,” said sharon maidenberg, the Ernest and Sarah Butler Executive Director and CEO of The Contemporary Austin. “The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria is a place for quiet contemplation of art and nature, where our visitors can roam and explore, and it is home to large-scale outdoor sculptures by renowned artists from around the world. The new ADA-compliant ramp represents a huge step toward removing a major access barrier to this civic treasure.”
The Contemporary’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA) ensures that the museum, our staff, and our organizational practices embody our new and explicitly stated values. We strive to create a welcoming and inclusive culture where there is trust, transparency, and a willingness to have challenging conversations, with the goal of fostering a diverse workplace environment where people choose to stay and grow with the organization. We are mindfully growing our staff team and the museum’s audiences so that they reflect the demographics and psychographics of the greater Austin area and of Texas.
We seek to foster a culture of equity that operates according to transparent and accessible decision-making models, practices, and policies. We serve as an active participant in the local ecosystem by supporting artists, partners, creatives, and thinkers of all perspectives and backgrounds. We work to ensure that our museum sites, online platforms, and programming in both realms are physically, digitally, and financially accessible. As this important work continues to evolve, we will anticipate and identify emerging DEIA gaps and challenges, and shape and implement values-driven approaches to those challenges.