Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion

Designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects, the Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion serves as the cornerstone of the Park and is one of the region’s signature architectural landmarks. The form of the building takes inspiration from the structure and geometry of a fallen, folded leaf. The large angular deck folds back on itself to form the canopy above, both of which are constructed to allow for the free flow of sunlight and rain water, and the unique visible steel structure of the building is reminiscent of the leaf’s skeletal veins.

The interior space is surrounded by glass on three sides in addition to the skylight ceiling above, allowing visitors to maintain a powerful connection to the natural world around them. The building provides a versatile gathering and education space, restrooms, and emergency services. Carefully sited and constructed in the woods of The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, the ADA accessible building is a destination for park visitors, accessed by the park’s network of pedestrian Landscape Journeys.

The Visitors Pavilion will be a LEED certified structure, with careful attention paid to environmental sensitivity and energy efficiency throughout the design and construction process. Water saving fixtures fed by on-site well water is used in the restrooms, energy efficient lighting is installed throughout the building, and a geothermal system is used to provide heating and cooling. The building is also carefully designed to inhabit the unique floodplain environment of 100 Acres. The Visitors Pavilion and surrounding landforms are designed to allow for the free flow of occasional floodwaters around and beneath the structure, making it a flagship project for the No Adverse Impact philosophy of the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

American Institute of Architects Award Winner

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) recognized Marlon Blackwell and the Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion with a 2012 Honor Award. As the AIA’s highest award, it has been 30 years since an Indiana project has received the Honor Award.

About the Architect

Marlon Blackwell FFAIA practices architecture in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and serves as Professor of Architecture at the University of Arkansas. Working outside the architectural mainstream, his architecture is based in design strategies that celebrate vernaculars and that draw upon them, and that seek to transgress conventional boundaries for architecture. Work produced in his professional office, Marlon Blackwell Architect, has received national and international recognition, numerous design awards and publication in books, architectural journals and popular magazines including Architectural Record (with the honor of having the Keenan TowerHouse featured on the cover of the February 2001 issue), Architect, Arquine, A+U, Detail, Dwell, Metropolitan Home, Contract, Residential Architect, Architectural Review (2002 ar + d prize winner for the Moore HoneyHouse) and The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary Architecture (2004 & 2008). His residential projects are featured in design books including Masters of Light. New Country House, Houses of Wood, Private Towers, House: American Houses for the New Century, The New American House 3, and The New American Cottage.

The significance of his contributions to design is evidenced by the recent publication of a monograph of his work entitled “An Architecture of the Ozarks: The Works of Marlon Blackwell” published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2005. Marlon was selected by The International Design Magazine, in 2006, as one of the ID Forty: Undersung Heroes and as an “Emerging Voice” in 1998 by the Architectural League of New York.

At the University of Arkansas he has co-taught design studios with Peter Eisenman (1997 & 1998), Christopher Risher (2000) and Julie Snow (2003). He has been a visiting professor teaching graduate design at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts in Spring 2001 and 2002. Most recently, He is the Elliel Saarinen Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan. He was the Ivan Smith Distinguished Professor at the University of Florida (Spring 2009) and the Paul Rudolph Visiting Professor at Auburn University (Spring 2008) and the Cameron Visiting Professor at Middlebury College (Fall 2007). In the Spring of 2003, he was the Ruth and Norman Moore Visiting Professor at Washington University in St. Louis and has also taught guest studios at Syracuse University (1991-92) and Lawrence Tech University (Fall 2001).

In 1994, he co-founded the University of Arkansas Mexico Summer Urban Studio, and has coordinated and taught in the program at the Casa Luis Barragan in Mexico City since 1996.

He received his undergraduate degree from Auburn University in 1980 and a M. Arch II degree from Syracuse University.