Mending Wall at the Boca Raton Museum of Art
Glavovic Studio/Robin Hill Mending Wall at the Boca Raton Museum of Art

“It’s very important that it bridged the gap between an idea and communication—that it draws people in to finding a way,” Margi Nothard says. Born in Zimbabwe, Nothard currently runs Glavovic Studio, a design and architecture firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She’s talking about Mending Wall, her new project at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, a small yet locally significant museum that sits on the corner of heavily-trafficked Federation Highway and NE Mizner Boulevard in a sunny town that happens to be very close to Mar-a-Lago.

Nothard designed Mending Wall—part promenade and part articulated wall—as a new façade for the museum. The fact that Nothard designed a wall that brings people together so close to the home of someone dedicated to building a wall to tear people apart runs through our conversation. As rightly maligned as walls may be in our current culture, Nothard’s project points out that sometimes, as Robert Frost wrote in the poem after which her project is named, “good fences make good neighbors.”

The wall, made of metal panels, acrylic, and mirrors
Glavovic Studio/Robin Hill The wall, made of metal panels, acrylic, and mirrors

Irvin Lippman, the museum’s director, wanted people to recognize that this building—“in any other city a big pink building would get noticed, but not in Boca Raton”—was indeed the city’s art museum. To that end, Nothard’s project removed camouflage, reoriented the structure, and made it all legible. The front door became the side door, and the back of the museum became the front, with the Mending Wall at the center of it all. Lippman describes how the building comes aglow at night, how there’s a gradation of grays and mirrored surfaces, “so that as you walk along it you see the gate having a changing presence and at the same time you can see through it to the activities of the museum.”

“As a pedestrian going through this area, you wouldn’t have chosen to walk around here,” Nothard says. Those who did could have glimpsed, through an old fence, the entrance to the loading dock, where the art-carrying trucks drive in. The new wall, on the other hand, invites engagement: A back-lit panel perched on one end offers wayfinding, and the wall itself covers up the loading dock entrance, producing a coherent visual image. Nothard collaborated with the Miami-based landscape architecture firm Studio Roberto Rovira to extend the sidewalk—and by extension the museum—up to the street, turning the space into a promenade. Her firm prioritized “the goals of art and the public realm” by taking a skinny volume and turning it into a small, though powerful, public space.

Part of the new promenade
Glavovic Studio/Robin Hill Part of the new promenade

Before Nothard’s intervention, there were seven different types of signs on the building, and still, Lippman says, people couldn’t figure out what it was. Now there are only three, he says, and “the museum has a presence that it did not have before.”

“It’s obviously a time in our culture right now where we’re using things to divide people,” Nothard says. “The museum wanted to name it [the Mending Wall], which we thought was a good idea, and it finds a way into our discourse right now.” Nothard sees the mirrored elements as a way of reminding people about “our relationship to the environment and ourselves and the universe,” she says. “I feel like this tiny little sliver of space and culture and environment really does have a lot of loaded experiential aspects.”

Eva Hagberg is a regularly featured columnist. Her views and conclusions are not necessarily those of ARCHITECT magazine nor of the American Institute of Architects.