Judd Foundation premiers winter garden restoration during Chinati Weekend

Winter garden reconstruction at La Mansana de Chinati/The Block, August 2023. Photo Alex Marks © Judd Foundation.

MARFA — This Saturday, in conjunction with Chinati Weekend programming, the Judd Foundation will unveil the long-awaited restoration of the winter garden located on the southwest corner of the Block, or La Mansana de Chinati, the compound where artist Donald Judd once lived and worked.

The garden restoration is part of a series of exterior renovation projects carried out by the foundation which began at the start of the year, temporarily closing the Block to the public. And its completion marks the end of a hefty undertaking. The garden’s deteriorating foundation had left it in danger of sinking into the neighboring creek; the restoration required the demolition and reconstruction of the garden, including the adobe wall that encloses it. 

The original adobe bricks that had constituted the winter garden walls were built from the earth below them, explained Peter Stanley, director of Preservation and Operations for the Judd Foundation. The rebuilding process entailed pulling up those bricks, bringing them to an adjacent lot, and reconstituting them by adding additional soil on-site — an effort led by Sandro Canovas.

“We made over 1,000 adobes for this project, right here on site — basically the same spirit as how they were done before,” said Stanley.

Vital improvements to the site also include upgrades to the drainage system which left the grounds in danger of flooding. The renovation team installed hundreds of linear feet of buried pipe that lead into two catchment tanks, one of which is in the winter garden. Those tanks are also equipped with submersible pumps, so the water caught can be reused in the garden or in the pool on the grounds, which has also been outfitted with improvements.

The garden had also, prior to the project, been overrun by bamboo originally planted by Judd — the final step in its restoration entails the planting of more “regionally appropriate” plants, said Stanley. The exterior spaces within the Block have also been covered in new gravel, which Stanley characterized as closer to what Judd had originally used.

The Judd Foundation will host Open Hours of the Block on Saturday, October 7, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A talk on the restoration of the winter garden will take place at 2 p.m., and will include remarks from not only Stanley but Jim Martinez, landscape designer and author of Marfa Garden, Kyle Melgaard, owner of Method Building Company, and adobero Sandro Canovas, all of whom were involved in the project.

The entrance to the Block is located at 400 West El Paso Street.