The Cincinnati Art Museum is located on a steep, densely vegetated hilltop overlooking the city. As part of a master plan to extend the Cincinnati Art Museum outdoors and into the Eden Park neighborhood, we designed a set of museum-worthy stairs to enhance pedestrian access to the museum. Previously, the museum could only be accessed via a rugged, overgrown trail or by following winding sidewalks through Eden Park. The Art Climb cuts half a mile off the previous route, making it easier and safer for pedestrians to access the museum.

The Art Climb was designed to fit into the natural topography of the hillside, while minimizing impacts to the trees within the project area. Landings were strategically placed to minimize excavation and fill placement. These landings also provide an extension of the museum through art displays, concerts, and other community events.

A creative approach was required to support the Art Climb. In the past 40 years, at least four documented landslides have occurred along the hillside surrounding the museum. Thus, it was important to consider slope stability in the design. The foundation support for the walkway was designed to restrain the adjacent slopes and increase the overall stability of the project site.

Stormwater management was another important aspect of this project. Introducing hardscape elements like the walkway landings into a natural setting generated increased runoff volume and created areas susceptible to erosion. In addition, the layout of the Art climb interrupted natural drainage patterns, so swales lined with river rock were used to collect and convey stormwater.

By creating an outdoor extension of the museum, the Art Climb provides a free cultural experience to visitors. Enhancing and facilitating the pedestrian connection between the museum and the surrounding neighborhoods also encourages museum visitors to explore nearby shopping and dining venues.

The Art Climb was selected for an Honor Award through the American Council of Engineering Companies of Ohio Engineering Excellence Awards competition.