Grand Rapids, Michigan, is home to one of the nation’s premier sculpture and botanical gardens – Frederik Meijer Gardens. In 2017, Meijer Gardens announced plans for a $115-million expansion, including a new 69,000-square-foot Welcome Center including expansions and upgrades to their Amphitheater. More than 71,000 square feet of Echo Lake granite from Coldspring®’s Orr, Minn., quarry played a key role in meeting the design vision.
According to Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects of New York, who designed the project, goals included tying together the many parts of the Garden into a coherent and understandable whole and creating a Welcome Center that amazed everyone who entered.
Requirements included a durable, cost-effective and timeless material that felt warm in tone and natural to its location. A stone with the visual appeal of life and movement was a must, as the architect wanted visitors to see a different building in the morning than in the afternoon. Echo Lake granite is a warm beige-colored granite with numerous sporadic, dark black markings and subtle accents of rose was the perfect choice to achieve the architect’s vision. Before the design team made the final decision on the granite selection, they visited Orr, Minn., which assured the team the Echo Lake quarry was a viable source for providing the large quantities required. During the quarry visit, the manufacturer provided a large-scale mockup to demonstrate the panels in various finishes, and Coldspring’s Diamond 5® finish was selected for most of the project pieces – exterior and interior facing, roof coping, amphitheater benches, ramp and wall facing, and stair guardrails. Polish finish was selected for the Welcome Center’s information desk.
“The architects had very specific requirements for the allowable color range, markings and inclusions for the granite, which we were able to provide,” says Ken Hogan, Regional Sales Manager, Coldspring. During extraction, Coldspring’s experienced quarry team did an excellent job chasing the desirable black markings and not allowing unwanted markings in the product. In the fabrication phase, Coldspring expertly handled the large pieces moving through the plant.
Many of the panels for the Welcome Center were extremely large rectilinear pieces – measuring 2’8” by 9’4”to 10’10”. The large pieces required special detailing for anchors and relief angles for installation, with type 31 anchors on the back. In addition, minimizing joints for the large piece sizes was a requirement in the stone detailing. An exceptionally skilled installation contractor, JK Masonry of Comstock Park, Mich., handled the unique requirements and large, heavy 2-inch-thick piece sizes.
“For the 70-foot-tall walls of the Welcome Center, our team used a series of wall cranes mounted to the wall and bolted on with trolleys,” says Corey Knauf of JK Masonry. “Every elevation had its own set of challenges. To set the granite along the roof, we followed Coldspring’s advice on using clamps to set the stone.”
Upon successful completion, granite provided a beautiful material to ground and define the landscape at Meijer Gardens. When the architect fell in love with a particular stone, the challenging work began among the team to meet the project’s high expectations. The beautiful upgrades now allow Meijer Gardens to continue serving an expanding audience with the vision of connecting the community, land and the arts.