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The board of directors for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (LMNA) recently chose Los Angeles as the latest—and potentially final—site for its troubled museum proposal.
The decision marks the third attempt by the LMNA museum board to find a location for the nearly $1 billion museum—resulting in multiple design schemes by MAD Architects. The LMNA will house a growing and expansive collection of graphic art, including works by Zaha Hadid, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, among others.
MAD Architects’ initial designs for a site north of San Francisco were rebuffed in 2015 after community outcry. The LMNA team made a try for a site in Chicago in 2016, only to eventually scrap the plans in the face of fierce opposition to the project’s proposed location on the Chicago’s lakefront by a local community group. Most recently, LMNA’s board made parallel pitches for two sites in California: one on San Francisco’s Treasure Island and another in L.A.’s Exposition Park.
L.A. won out this round, gaining another cultural amenity for a site already home to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, California African American Museum, California Science Center, and the Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles County. The new museum, if built, will also be located along the city’s Expo Line light rail line, and will help—along with a forthcoming Gensler-designed Los Angeles Football Club soccer stadium—extend a leg of transit-oriented development from a growing entertainment and hotel district in the South Park neighborhood nearby to one of L.A.’s core working class neighborhoods.
In announcing its decision, the Lucas Foundation’s board of directors extolled the virtues of the urban park and its surrounding neighborhood, saying in a statement: “While each location offers many unique and wonderful attributes, South Los Angeles’s Promise Zone best positions the museum to have the greatest impact on the broader community, fulfilling our goal of inspiring, engaging, and educating a broad and diverse visitorship.”
In an effort to preserve the park’s green spaces, the selected scheme will include public open space on its rooftop. Renderings for the proposal show the curvaceous museum located in a leafy, park setting topped with tufts of greenery. The museum also appears to gingerly touch the ground by coming down in a series of large, discrete piers.
It’s still unclear what sorts of developmental hurdles the museum will need to surpass prior to construction, but the project clearly has a fan in L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who after learning of the decision, remarked to the Los Angeles Times, “It’s a natural place to have this museum in the creative capital of the world and in the geographic center of the city. It’s a banner day for L.A.”
Detroit citizens take preservation into their own hands to save a historic Negro League stadium
Automobiles and baseball: Not much else is more American. And Detroit has been defined by both for the last 100 years. Notably, Detroit was one of the most important cities in the negro baseball leagues of the first half of the 20th century. Hamtramck, a town surrounded by the city of Detroit, is home to one of the last remaining Negro League stadiums, along with Birmingham, Alabama, Paterson, New Jersey, and Indianapolis, Indiana. Now, after years of neglect, the Hamtramck Stadium may see America’s favorite pastime once again.
It all started six years ago when a group of baseball-loving Detroiters decided to save, at the very least, the memory of Navin Field. Located in the Corktown neighborhood, Navin Field was home of the Detroit Tigers from 1912 through 1999. Despite being a Michigan Historic Site and on the National Register of Historic Places, the field was razed in 2009. The land was quickly overgrown and, as a result, the Navin Field Grounds Crew was founded. After repeatedly being chased off by the police, the NFGC eventually convinced the city to maintain the diamond on the site of the old stadium.
The NFGC is made up of volunteers and is funded completely out of the pockets of those volunteers. Even so, the crew has been out at the Navin Field diamond most Sundays for the last six years. Now they are taking on a new challenge, revitalizing the Hamtramck Stadium. As with Navin Field, the crew plans to roll out their personal lawn mowers and rakes, and get to work this spring.
The difference this time is that the NFGC won’t be alone its efforts. In January, the National Parks Service announced a $50,000 African American Civil Rights Grant for the redevelopment the stadium. Even before that, a new group, Friends of the Hamtramck Stadium, was making plans to raise funds this coming summer to repair the stadium’s grandstand.
Built in 1930, the Hamtramck Stadium was home to the Detroit Stars and Detroit Wolves throughout the 1930s. The site of the 1930 Negro National League Championship Series, the stadium saw its share of famous baseball players, including Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell. The stadium was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. Currently, the stadium is in the configuration that was established in the 1970s. The main remaining structure, a large grandstand, has not been used since the 1990s.
Like Navin Field, the hope is to bring baseball back to the neighborhood. As originally built, the Hamtramck Stadium could hold upward of 8,000 spectators. Much of the grandstand is original, but over the years it has been reduced from its original size and is now able to hold about 1,500 spectators.
The stadium wouldn’t be the first in Hamtramck to be revitalized. Last year the Detroit City FC soccer team redeveloped the Keyworth Stadium, bringing another classic civic space back to life. In a time when nearly $2 billion is being spent in Detroit’s downtown to build the Little Caesars Arena and entertainment district, Detroiters are demonstrating what they really value with their lawn mowers and weekends.
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Before JGMA was given the job to design a new school for the Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep (CRSM), it was working with students and faculty in design charrettes. The high school was looking for a design and an architect as progressive as its approach to education, which endeavors to have students function at college level by the time they graduate. On top of offering typical coursework, CRSM matches students with corporations; the students work for the corporations and in turn the corporations sponsor them. Now, the school is hoping to have a campus that lives up to its academic ambitions.
The path to a state-of-the-art school has not necessarily been clear. Currently located in a building in desperate need of repair and updating, CRSM has had no room to expand—even after the school bought a nearby abandoned Kmart store. It took working with the JGMA team to realize a design that would transform the banal nature of a big-box structure into a cohesive campus.
One of the first and most difficult challenges of the project was to remove the stigma of the big box and its not-so-appealing suburban surroundings: Seas of parking lots, strip malls, and fast-food joints surround the site. So JGMA worked to break up the monotony of the vast concrete lot and sterile facade of the building. “These students are used to getting hand-me-down everything,” noted JGMA designer Katie LaCourt. “Their current building is a hand-me-down. Overcoming this stigma associated with the big box was one of our first concerns.”
The artificially lighted interior also needed to be addressed. This came in the form of the biggest and most visible move in the project: plans for three large cuts to be taken out of the roof and facade of the building. These cuts will bring light into and throughout the building, interrupting the visual form of the 120,000-square-foot structure. Playing on the Kmart’s original decorated shed form, a second facade will be draped over the building, giving it a completely different appearance and character. Additionally, the former parking lot at the front of the building will be covered by a soccer field, distancing the building further from its big-box roots.
The large cuts will also provide common areas between the teaching spaces to create the feeling of a campus rather than a single building. Outside of the building, the planned landscaping mirrors these cuts. Long paths will extend from the front and the back of the building to provide outdoor learning areas and connect a marsh to the campus.
Though on track to begin construction by early spring 2017, the conversion process is a long one. Working to accommodate the school and its students, JGMA has divided the project into three phases. The first phase will involve converting 50,000 square feet of the floor area and making two of the designed cuts. This will allow the current 375 students to move into the new space. When the second phase is complete, the entire building will have been converted, and the school will be able to expand to its goal of 500 students. The third and final stage will be the landscaping, which will complete the transformation to an educational campus.
JGMA’s conversion of this empty Kmart is not the first of its kind, but it is indicative of changes happening in many of America’s suburbs. Many big boxes across the country, which for numerous reasons have closed or moved into new spaces, have begun to be redeveloped. In a few notable examples, large stores have been converted into city libraries. In Eden Prairie, Minnesota, BTR Architects converted a former grocery store into the county’s public library; just as for the Cristo Rey project, light and large expansive spaces were issues that had to be addressed. Others have been converted into fitness centers and go-kart tracks, and one even became a Spam museum. These conversions have achieved varied levels of success and innovation. When complete, Cristo Rey will arguably be one of the most ambitious.
OMA reveals design for sports complex around RFK Stadium
Even if the Redskins keep their name and leave D.C., the city is taking steps to ensure the area around RFK Stadium offers ample space for residents to play, too.
Events D.C., the city's semi-independent convention and sports authority, has unveiled plans to replace the ocean of surface parking that fronts the soon-to-be-demolished stadium with recreation space and a food market. The whole scheme, pictured in the gallery above, is designed by New York–based OMA.
The estimated $500 million proposal includes three ballfields (two for baseball, one for youth soccer), a 350,000-square-foot recreation and sports complex, and a 47,000-square-foot market selling groceries and concessions. According to the Washington Post, the sports center will host bowling, go-kart, and video-game facilities; a memorial to Robert F. Kennedy will be installed nearby, as well. To tie the programming together, three pedestrian bridges will connect the site to Kingman and Heritage islands.
“The RFK Stadium Armory-Campus—currently under-utilized—is poised to be transformed into a vibrant place that connects D.C. to the Anacostia River," OMA partner Jason Long told the Washington Business Journal. "Working together with Events D.C., we have formulated a plan that strategically locates new facilities that will draw people to and through the site, while refining the vision for larger redevelopments in the years ahead.”
As the 190-acre site is owned by the federal government, federal and local agencies must approve the plan before any shovels hit the soil. Half of the project will be funded by Events D.C. while the city, hotel tax revenue, and team leases will pay for the rest.
Although the Redskins moved to the suburbs years ago, the team is scoping sites for a move—maybe to D.C., or maybe not, if the team refuses to change its racist name. Regardless, the D.C. Zoning Commission gave its initial blessings to the BIG-designed stadium last month, and the commission is expected to give its final okay for the project at its February meeting. Right now, Major League Soccer's (MLS) D.C. United plays at the stadium, and it will continue to play tournaments on-site until the new stadium is complete in 1–2 years.
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Episode III: Exposition Park
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Former Glory Regained
2016 Best of Design Award for Adaptive Restoration: The Cotton Gin at The Co-Op District by Antenora Architects
As part of a new master plan for this 16-acre former agricultural co-op site, two cotton gin buildings were adapted into an open-air public events space. Perforated stainless steel on the south facade fills the area with diffused natural light while accentuating the delicacy and elegance of the original structure.
Structural Engineer Architectural Engineers Collaborative [AEC] Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing TTG General Contractor American Constructors Wall Panels Centria Lighting Supplier ERT Lighting
Honorable Mention, Adaptive Restoration: The Cistern
A minimal approach was taken to repurpose the 90-year-old decommissioned drinking water reservoir cistern into a destination and civic art space that is accessible and enjoyable. Soft LED lighting from the entry tunnel continues in transparent handrails around the perimeter of the 221 concrete columns within 87,500 square feet.
Honorable Mention, Adaptive Restoration: Fisher Hill Reservoir Park Gatehouse
Architect: Touloukian Touloukian Inc. Location: Brookline, MA
This former reservoir was acquired by a local municipality to serve as a new soccer field. The original 1887 gatehouse became a restroom and the restoration includes full masonry re-pointing, roof and window replacement—a thoughtful marriage of the historic and the modern to preserve a strong sense of place.