Meijer Gardens opens Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden


The Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardens spans eight acres and features a three-acre pond. Photo by Johnny Quirin

One of Fred Meijer’s final wishes has come to life.

After more than five years of planning and construction, the eight-acre Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden will open to the public Saturday at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.

The museum said this week that the garden features many traditional Japanese garden elements such as waterfalls, elevation changes, boulder placement and structures, offering visitors “tranquility, contemplation and beauty.”

“This project really took its first major steps when Fred Meijer proposed the idea to me — it was one of his last requests for Meijer Gardens,” said David Hooker, president and CEO, Meijer Gardens. “Thanks to Fred and Lena’s generosity, along with Richard and Helen DeVos’, and over 200 community members, our $22-million goal was met to build and sustain this Japanese Garden for years to come.”

The garden adds to the destination’s collection that attracts more than 600,000 visitors annually and makes it one of the top 100 most-visited art museums in the world, according to Art Newspaper.

Designing the garden

The Japanese Garden was designed by designer Hoichi Kurisu and uses many centuries-old Japanese presentation styles. The garden also includes several contemporary sculptures mixed throughout the many walking paths.

Since the project began, the marsh and wooded valley has been turned into a garden space with a lake and curated gardens with waterfalls, textured boulders and cloud-form trees.

Kurisu, who has designed Japanese gardens across the globe with his firm Kurisu International, also included a Zen-style garden, bonsai garden, bridges and an authentic Japanese teahouse.

Meijer Gardens worked with Kurisu to "create a familiar and calming space, but one that will change with the seasons and as it matures,” said Steve LaWarre, director of horticulture, Meijer Gardens.

“Gardens are never really finished — it’s a living thing that will continue to take shape and grow for generations to come,” LaWarre said.

Kurisu was honored to work on one of Fred Meijer’s last dreams.

“It has been a great honor for me to work on this very special project,” Kurisu said. “Fred Meijer’s dream for such a garden for his wife, Lena, and of Richard and Helen DeVos, has become my dream too. My wish is that the beauty and tranquility of this space will touch the visitors very deeply for many generations to come.”

Contemporary sculptures

Many international artists are featured throughout the Japanese Garden: Anish Kapoor, Zhang Huan, David Nash, Masayuki Koorida, George Rickey, Jenny Holtzer and Giuseppe Penone.

“Although in many ways this is a very traditional Japanese garden and reflects centuries of tradition, it also is uniquely forward thinking through the inclusion of contemporary sculpture,” said Joseph Becherer, chief curator and VP, Meijer Gardens. “Reflecting the very mission of Meijer Gardens at large and the commitment to horticulture and sculpture, the careful selection of these seven works make a significant contribution to the collection and to the larger notion of collecting within the history of art.”

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