The Murphy Sculpture Garden was envisioned in 1960 by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Chancellor Franklin Murphy to be a public sculpture garden, a place for students and staff to experience art as a part of daily life. Built as part of a larger campus expansion plan, UCLA’s supervisory landscape architect Ralph Cornell was commissioned to design the five-acre rectangular site, a former parking lot nestled amidst campus buildings.
Designed without knowledge of what sculpture the site would exhibit, Cornell envisioned the garden as a piece of art in itself. Rigid forms on the outer edges of the space, including linear concrete pathways and raised terraces, provide a transition between the modern campus buildings and the inner park. Specimen trees and small groves punctuate the undulating topography of expansive lawns while curvilinear pathways provide access to intimate spaces. A bridge spans the park, providing direct access to the central campus and allowing pedestrians to pass over the lawn. Sculptures, including works by Alexander Calder and Auguste Rodin, are set into the terraces, along pathways, and placed in curving concrete seating areas at the edges of the lawn. Plantings include an allée of coral trees along the northern terrace; rows of canary pines; jacarandas; sycamores; eucalyptus, and redwood trees. Dedicated in 1967, the garden is maintained by the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture Center at UCLA.