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Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf

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August King

Project Name

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

Project Status


Year Completed



74,000 sq. feet


Eiteljorg Museum



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Project Description


The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art has been an Indianapolis landmark for the past 25 years. This 74,000-square-foot museum provides a setting for the broad Native and Western American Art and Artifact collection of Mr. Harrison Eiteljorg. Central to the development of the project was the aspiration for the museum to complement the client’s collection. To that end, the architect and the client embarked on a cross-country adventure (see inspiration images on right, taken on this journey) to identify unique and authentic buildings that reflect Native American culture to inform the design with the appropriate forms and materials. Their hard work paid off.

The award-winning building honored the client’s desire with a design expression directly from the Southwestern architectural style of the Anasazi Indians. The mass and color are common in adobe and pueblo architecture, yet have a more monolithic character and massive sense of scale. Veined Minnesota dolomite and accents of German sandstone were selected as finish materials to reflect the spirit of the indigenous colors of the American Southwest. This style has been interpreted to fit more comfortably into its context and increased in scale to respond to the monumental nature of museums.

The museum includes permanent galleries to display the extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, and other cultural art objects, a gallery to accommodate traveling exhibits, collection storage, other support areas, and a 3,000 square foot gift shop. The galleries incorporate flexible partitioning systems and display lighting. The remaining exhibit space is located on the second floor and provides roughly 14,000 square feet dedicated to Native American Artifacts.

The museum continues to be a popular destination in Indianapolis and is one of the anchors of the White River State Park. The relationship with the client continues today with many projects. A master plan in the late 90’s led to multiple expansions, one of which provides direct access to the Central Canal. Today, the Eiteljorg Museum is a little over 100,000 square feet.

Jury Comments:
“The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art succeeds in the transformation of the visitor experience from being in a Midwestern city to that of being among American Indian art, culture and history. This experience begins during the approach to the museum, during the visit and upon departure. The exterior design and materials selection of the museum are decidedly unique within the downtown mile square. This is magnified by the context of the museum being sited along the repurposed canal and in the White River State Park.”
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