Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
Before designing the Eiteljorg Museum, architect Jonathan Hess traveled the Southwest with museum founder Harrison Eiteljorg. The pair studied the area’s land, architecture and people. Broad, flat mesas; deep, craggy canyons and ancient pueblo structures are what make the Southwest
uniquely beautiful. These features served as an inspiration to the Eiteljorg Museum’s creators.
The Eiteljorg Museum’s main entrance has become an Indianapolis icon, with its Southwestern influenced portico and front path that stretches past the Richard and Billie Lou Wood Deer Fountain and The Greeter, a monumental sculpture by artist George Carlson. The 118,000-square-foot, honey-colored museum is set within a large, round base inspired by the circular symbols and spaces of Native Pueblo communities. Much of the Eiteljorg’s exterior consists of Minnesota dolomite, a stone with color and texture that creates the feel of a Southwestern Pueblo. Plum-colored German sandstone serves as the building’s base and appears again inside on the floor of the museum’s Grand Hall and other areas.
Inside the Eiteljorg Museum, warm earth tones, stone and rich mahogany trim continue the Southwestern motif. The expansive Grand Hall features the light-filled Michael and Juanita Eagle Commons. The R.B. Annis Western Family Experience, located on the canal level, is linked to the Hall by a winding staircase. In the center of the staircase is the famed Indianapolis Totem Pole. Most of the museum’s galleries are floored with stained oak.
With the June 2005 addition of the Mel and Joan Perelman Wing, which doubled the size of the institution’s public space, came the opportunity to add more unique architectural features to its already award-winning design. Johnathan Hess seamlessly integrated new spaces with the old.
The new north end of the museum, which connects the museum to the Indianapolis Central Canal, features the Christel DeHaan Family
Terrace. This elegant garden showcases monumental sculpture by Allan Houser, Truman Lowe and Douglas Hyde; indigenous Indiana plants and trees; and the Randy Deer & Wayne Zink Symbols of our Universe, an architectural feature that interprets the Native American relationship with the four cardinal directions. Providing a view of the DeHaan Family Terrace and the Canal is the outdoor terrace of the Eiteljorg Museum Café. A wood-and-zinc canopy near the canal entrance echoes the design of the museum’s main entryway, developing a sense of structural continuity.