Search results for "little rock"

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Sublime Landscapes

New exhibition at the Arkansas Art Center highlights the early works of Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams: Early Works, the first exhibition of Ansel Adams’s photography hosted by the Arkansas Arts Center, will showcase 41 prints done by Adams from the 1920s through the 1950s, highlighting his small-scale images. Adams was known for his photography of natural sites such as Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, and the Sierra Nevadas, and this exhibition will tie into the completion of the 100th anniversary of the National Park System. According to the Arkansas Arts Center, Adams wasb a “photographer, musician, naturalist, explorer, critic, and teacher, was a giant in the field of American landscape photography. His work can be viewed as the end of an arc of American art concerned with capturing the ‘sublime’ in the unspoiled Western landscape.”

Ansel Adams: Early Works Arkansas Arts Center 501 East 9th Street, Little Rock, Arkansas Through April 16, 2017

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Design Marshal

United States Marshals Museum moves closer to construction

To coincide with the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service, the United States Marshals Museum’s opening date is set for September 24, 2019. Designed by Cambridge Seven Associates along with Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, the institution’s foundation has also launched a $60 million fundraising campaign for construction.

The new 50,000-square-foot museum will be located in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and will feature a collection of artifacts spread across three galleries exploring the 230-year history of the nation’s oldest law enforcement agency, a Hall of Honor for those killed in the line of duty, and a National Learning Center that will promote an understanding of constitutional democracy.

Peter Kuttner, president of Cambridge Seven Associates and principal architect for the museum, consciously blended history with modern sustainability in the design. The museum looks out over the Arkansas River, which used to serve as a border between the former colonies and what was known as the frontier at the time of the Marshals’ establishment in 1789. The scheme also incorporates photovoltaic panels and vegetative roofing along the building’s star-shaped design, which,along with its use of bronze, is reflective of the badges worn by marshals in earlier years.

From his research, Kuttner found that “there was no official badge manufacturer in Washington,” that “some were stamped on tin, some were cast, some [stars] had five points, some had six points,” and “when you buy souvenirs, they’re all different sizes and looks.”

For his inspiration for the star-shaped aesthetic, Kuttner looked to one of the last scenes in the movie High Noon, in which U.S. Marshal Will Kane tosses his badge to the ground. “It hits at an angle, with some of the points jutting out of the ground,” he said, explaining his approach to the museum as “low on the front, and high on the back.” The infamous High Noon drawing by former President Bill Clinton, who serves as honorary chair of the museum’s executive committee, still hangs in the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, and served as “a great little connection” that got the committee on board, Kuttner said.

The facility is projected to cost $35.9 million, with $12.3 million in total exhibits, a $4 million endowment, nearly $3 million in contingencies, and $3.5 million for one-year operating expenses. Just over $29 million is listed in committed fundraising so far.

With almost half of the campaign target already secured, the museum still faces fundraising challenges. In a conversation with Talk Business & Politics, Jim Dunn, president of the U.S. Marshals Museum Foundation, cited the agency’s low profile, as well as the location of its future home in Fort Smith as specific points of tension. “Convincing donors to export large chunks of money to a distant and unknown community is difficult,” he said.

At present, the museum’s eight-member staff is working out of offices in Fort Smith, maintaining some 500 items that will eventually be used in the museum’s exhibitions. The museum staff is set to expand to 18–20 people upon opening.

With regard to the museum’s funding and the array of design elements, specifically the sustainable features, Kuttner expressed anxiety about its execution: “I’m crossing my fingers that those elements survive value-engineering,” he said.

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Ozark Oppertunity

Studio Gang to design Arkansas Art Center expansion
The Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) has announced Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects as the design architect for its next building project. Studio Gang was selected from a field of five finalists that included Allied Works, Shigeru Ban, Thomas Phifer, and Snohetta. “Designing a re-envisioned Arkansas Arts Center is a truly exciting commission,” Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang said in a press release. “Its extraordinary collection, historic MacArthur Park setting, and rich mix of programs present a unique opportunity to redefine how the arts can strengthen local communities and surrounding regions. We look forward to working closely with the AAC to discover how architecture can enhance the Center’s important civic and cultural mission by creating new connections between people and the arts in Little Rock and beyond.” More than just a renovation and expansion of the museum's current building, the project is expected to completely change the way the museum is used and interacts with the surrounding downtown. “This project is about more than just addressing the physical issues of the current building. It requires rethinking how the AAC fits into the downtown fabric,” said Todd Herman, executive director for the AAC. “How can we best serve the community, and how do the AAC and MacArthur Park connect to other social and cultural nodes in downtown Little Rock? We want to do more than build; we want to transform the cultural experience.” The AAC was founded in 1960 and has a permanent collection with a heavy emphasis on drawing, watercolors, and other works on paper. This includes works from Rembrandt, Picasso, and Degas. The museum also possesses the largest U.S. collection of drawings and watercolors of early 20th century French Neo-Impressionist painter Paul Signac. The next step in the $65-million project will be to select a local architect to collaborate on the project. According to the museum’s website, an RFQ will be issued this month for that position.
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A wide array of architects chosen by Walmart owners for Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program
The Walton Family Foundation has chosen a group of 36 design firms comprising architects and landscape architects to be part of their Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program in a bid to boost the standard of architecture in the up and coming area of Northwest Arkansas. A smaller, more refined group of practices from this pool will be chosen by a selection committee at a later date for three pilot projects announced early in September. Those pilot projects are: TheatreSquared in downtown Fayetteville; a 28,000-square-foot adaptive reuse building for the Rogers Historical Museum in downtown Rogers; and a new 35,000-square-foot facility and half-acre playground for the Helen R. Walton Children’s Enrichment Center (HWCEC) in Bentonville. The announcement wraps up a two-month, country-wide search for designers that will shape the new urban landscape in Northwest Arkansas. “We are extremely pleased with the level of talent exhibited by the architecture and landscape architecture designers chosen for the program’s first year,” said Walton Family Foundation Home Region Program Director Karen Minkel in a press release. “Our extensive review process, led by reputable industry professionals, will give our grantees access to high-caliber design that meets the needs of these public-use buildings and enhances Northwest Arkansas’ urban fabric.”
Anmahian Winton Architects Cambridge, MA
Alta Planning and Design* Davidson, NC
Bing Thom Architects Vancouver, BC
Brian Healy Architects Somerville, MA
Brininstool + Lynch Chicago, IL
David M. Schwarz Architects, Inc. Washington, D.C.
De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop Louisville, KY
Deborah Berke Partners New York, NY
DLAND Studio Architecture and Landscape Architecture* Brooklyn, NY
Duvall Decker Architects Jackson, MS
Ennead Architects New York, NY
Eskew+Dumez+Ripple New Orleans, LA
Grimshaw New York, NY
GWWO, Inc./Architects Baltimore, MD
HBRA Architects Chicago, IL
HGA Architects and Engineers Minneapolis, MN
KieranTimberlake Philadelphia, PA
Lake-Flato San Antonio, TX
Louise Braverman Architect New York, NY
LTL Architects New York, NY
Marlon Blackwell Architects Fayetteville, AR
Martinez + Johnson Architecture Washington, D.C.
Marvel Architects New York, NY
Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle Minneapolis, MN
Michael Van Valkenburgh Architects* Brooklyn, NY
Modus Studio Fayetteville, AR
Overland Partners San Antonio, TX
Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects Little Rock, AR
Rice+Lipka Architects New York, NY
Robert A.M. Stern Architects New York, NY
Robert Sharp Architects & Massengale Architecture PLLC Fayetteville, AR | NY, NY
Schwartz/Silver Architects Boston, MA
Spackman Mossop Michaels* New Orleans, LA
Stoss Landscape Urbanism* Boston, MA
Trahan Architects New Orleans, LA
WXY Architecture + Urban Design* New York, NY
  • * denotes a landscape architecture firm.
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One of these five projects will be named winner of the 2015 Rudy Bruner Awards in urban design
The Rudy Bruner Awards for Urban Excellence have announced the five finalists for 2015. Founded in 1987, the accolade recognizes urban design, architecture and urban planning projects which address economic and social concerns within their environment. Sponsoring the award is the Bruner Foundation, founded by Massachusetts architect Simeon Bruner who named the award after his late father, Rudy Bruner. Aiming to emphasize the role of architecture in the urban environment, the award identifies and honors places rather than people to advance discourse about how to improve cities. First to receive the award was Pike Place Market in Seattle. Seventy-three places in 25 states have been awarded since. The finalists for the 2015 Rudy Bruner Awards for Urban Excellence are as follows: Falls Park on the Reedy Greenville, SC The renaissance of a 26-acre river corridor running through the heart of Greenville, restoring public access to the falls and green space and catalyzing adjacent downtown development. (Submitted by the City of Greenville.) Grand Rapids Downtown Market Grand Rapids, MI A new downtown public space promoting local food producers and community events, entrepreneurship, and education about nutrition and healthy lifestyles. (Submitted by Grand Rapids Downtown Market.) Miller’s Court Baltimore, MD The redevelopment of a vacant manufacturing building into an affordable and supportive living and working environment for public school teachers and education-focused nonprofits. (Submitted by Enterprise Community Investment.) Quixote Village Olympia, WA A two-acre community of 30 tiny houses and a common building that provides permanent, supportive housing for chronically homeless adults. (Submitted by Panza.) Uptown District Cleveland, OH The vibrant redevelopment of a corridor linking art, educational and healthcare institutions with surrounding neighborhoods, creating lively outdoor gathering spaces, retail shops, and restaurants, student and market-rate housing, and public transit connections. (Submitted by Case Western Reserve University.) The finalists and ensuing Gold and Silver Medalists are selected by a nationwide committee of urban experts, including a mayor. The 2015 selection committee includes:
  • Rebecca Flora, Sustainable Communities Practice Leader, Ecology & Environment, Chestertown, MD
  • Larry Kearns, Principal, Wheeler Kearns Architects, Chicago, IL
  • India Pierce Lee, Program Director, Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland, OH
  • Mia Lehrer, President, Mia Lehrer + Associates, Los Angeles, CA
  • James Stockard, Lecturer in Housing, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA
  • Mark Stodola, Mayor, Little Rock, AR
Next month, Brunder Foundation staff will conduct site visits to each finalist project in preparation for the committee’s selection of the medal winners in June. Staff will spend 2–3 days touring the site, taking photos and interviewing those who are involved in the project. The medalists will receive cash awards to support their projects: one Gold Medal recipient—$50,000, four Silver Medal recipients—$10,000 each. Past winners include Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles, a building complex located in Skid Row designed as a center for teaching inner city children art through afterschool and weekend arts programs. “The Rudy Bruner Award offers the opportunity to showcase innovative placemaking responses to the needs of American cities and communities,” said Simeon Bruner, founder of the award. “We want to advance discourse about making cities better, and seek outstanding examples to share with those who care about improving our urban environments. There are a surprising number of inventive projects out there, if you just look for them.”
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ASLA announces winners of its 2014 Professional Awards and Student Awards
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has announced this year's winners of its Professional and Student Awards, which honor "top public, commercial, residential, institutional, planning, communications and research projects from across the U.S. and around the world." Each of the winning projects will be featured in the October issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine and be officially presented by ASLA at its annual meeting and expo in Denver on November 24th. In total, 34 professional awards were selected out of 600 entries. General Design Category   Award of Excellence  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus Seattle Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Honor Awards Slow Down: Liupanshui Minghu Wetland Park Liupanshui, Ghizhou Province, China Turenscape Gebran Tueni Memorial Beirut, Lebanon Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture Segment 5, Hudson River Park  New York City Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. Salem State University Marsh Hall, Salem, Mass. WagnerHodgson Landscape Architecture Urban Outfitters Headquarters Philadelphia Navy Yard, Philadelphia D.I.R.T. Studio Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Grand Teton National Park, WY Hershberger Design for D.R. Horne & Company Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park Queens, NY Thomas Balsley Associates and Weiss/Manfredi Low Maintenance Eco-Campus: Vanke Research Center Shenzhen, China Z+T Studio Shoemaker Green University of Pennsylvania Andropogon Associates, Ltd.   Residential Design Category Award of Excellence Woodland Rain Gardens Caddo Parish, La. Jeffrey Carbo Landscape Architects Honor Awards Hill Country Prospect Centerport, Texas Studio Outside for Sara Story Design Vineyard Retreat Napa Valley, Calif. Scott Lewis Landscape Architecture Le Petit Chalet Southwest Harbor, Maine Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC Sky Garden Miami Beach, Fla. Raymond Jungles Inc. West Texas Ranch Marfa, Texas Ten Eyck Landscape Architects Inc. GM House, Bragança Paulista São Paulo, Brazil Alex Hanazaki Paisagismo City House in a Garden Chicago McKay Landscape Architects   Analysis & Planning Category Award of Excellence Midtown Detroit Techtown District Detroit Sasaki Associates Inc. Honor Awards The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization for Little Rock Little Rock, Ark. The University of Arkansas Community Design Center and Marlon Blackwell Architect Devastation to Resilience: The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center Houston Design Workshop Inc., Aspen, and Reed/Hilderbrand Zidell Yards District-Scale Green Infrastructure Scenarios Portland, Ore. GreenWorks, PC Yerba Buena Street Life Plan San Francisco CMG Landscape Architecture Unified Ground: Union Square - National Mall Competition Washington, D.C. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Communications Category Award of Excellence The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley The Cultural Landscape Foundation Honor Awards Freehand Drawing and Discovery: Urban Sketching and Concept Drawing for Designers James Richards, FASLA, published by John Wiley & Sons Inc. Monk's Garden: A Visual Record of Design Thinking and Landscape Making Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. Garden, Park, Community, Farm Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Lands Louise A. Mozingo, ASLA, published by MIT Press   The Landmark Award Norman B. Leventhal Park at Post Office Square Boston Halvorson Design Partnership Inc.
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Best Game in Town
HOK's proposal for an Obama presidential library in Chicago.
Courtesy HOK

If the political junkie’s current preoccupation is prematurely sizing up the 2016 presidential race, the architectural game of the moment is speculating where Barack Obama’s library will land once the 44th president has left office. Of course, here in Chicago we’re all but certain Obama will locate the physical manifestation of his legacy in his adopted hometown, where he taught law, launched his career in public service, and delivered victory speeches in 2008 and 2012. That’s still up in the air—New York, where he attended Columbia University, and Hawaii, his birth state, are both vying for the attention of a foundation tasked with establishing the library.

Why all the clamor? Conventional wisdom holds that a presidential library is an economic shot in the arm, a tourist boost and a longstanding attraction that wins its host city a burst of international attention. They’re usually privately funded and then handed over to the National Archive, so they’re bound to be a net positive to the area.

But how certain is this economic boost? A few years ago Illinois Institute of Technology Professor Marshall Brown corralled undergraduate and graduate architecture students in two different studios to examine the impact of presidential libraries past. Their research on 13 existing libraries did not resoundingly confirm the “build it and they will come” suspicions.

“It was interesting to find out, as far as we could find, no one had publicly compiled all that information before,” Brown told me in early June. It’s hard to draw blanket conclusions about economic impact—the size and location of the libraries vary greatly—but they’re generally not the boon they’re made out to be, at least in terms of raw numbers. Brown thinks the success of some libraries has to do with what they bring to the urban character of the neighborhood they end up calling home.

“They don’t attract that much energy on their own,” he said, “but if they’re sited correctly they can kind of add to what’s going on and act as a catalyst.”

Take Bill Clinton’s library in Little Rock, Arkansas. Situated between downtown and the airport, it fell on the decidedly urban end of the spectrum versus, say, Ronald Reagan’s library in suburban Simi Valley, California. Even JFK’s Boston site was in relatively remote Columbia Point. The Chicago locations proposed so far have mostly been around Hyde Park, so it seems, even at this early date, Obama’s should vie to be the first truly urban presidential library.

So let’s remember a few things as the conversation picks up. First, let’s look beyond the almighty dollar when we imagine what the footprint of this development might look like. Will it make room for public space, community programs, transit improvements? Will it announce its architectural significance in context, or land like a spaceship? (Or worse yet, compromise for conference center blandness.) Obama started his career in public service here as a community organizer. If Chicagoans want this library, let’s see communities from the North Shore to Northwest Indiana organize around great design. Tourist dollars chase great places, not the other way around.

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Six Architects & Designers Take Home $50,000 Prizes
Today the United States Artists (USA), a national grant-making and advocacy organization, named fifty artists to receive the USA Fellowships, which includes six in design and architecture whose accomplishments, in everything from landscape architecture to digital technology, have distinguished them in their field. These fellows—hailing from New York, Los Angeles, and Arkansas—will receive unrestricted grants of $50,000 each. Among the winners are two architecture firms, a landscape architect, and an academic. P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S From United States Artists:
Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich founded their architecture firm, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, in Los Angeles in 1999. In their practice, they integrate digital technology with an extensive consideration of form and innovative materials. Working at various scales, they have recently completed a ten-story apartment building in Rosario, Argentina, and a mix-use corporate headquarters in Chengdu, China. Huljich is on the architecture and urban design faculty of UCLA, and Spina is on the design faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc).
Stephen Luoni / Community Design Center From United States Artists:
Stephen Luoni is the Director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center (UACDC), a non-profit that specializes in interdisciplinary public works projects combining landscape, urban, and architectural design. Luoni’s design and research have won him more than 80 honors, including Progressive Architecture Awards and American Institute of Architects Honor Awards.
SCAPE / Landscape Architecture From United States Artists:
Landscape architect Kate Orff founded her firm, SCAPE, in 2004. She merges ecology and strong form to create rich, bio-diverse, textured landscapes that magnify the relationship between people and place. SCAPE’s projects range from a pocket park in Brooklyn to a 1000-acre landfill regeneration project in Dublin, Ireland. Orff is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University and the director of its Urban Landscape Lab.
Reiser + Umemoto From United States Artists:
Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto started their internationally recognized firm, Reiser + Umemoto, RUR Architecture, in New York in 1986. They established their firm as “an innovative laboratory in which significant social, cultural and structural ideas are synthesized into a tangible, dynamic architecture.” Reiser is a Professor of Architecture at Princeton University, and Umemoto has taught at various schools in the U.S. and Asia, including Harvard, Hong Kong, and Columbia Universities, as well as The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
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Yankee Modern

What is New England architecture?
New England might not garner the attention that other places get for contemporary architecture, but the region has a legacy of world-class architecture, including some great works of modernism. Two iconic monuments of modern architecture in America are in New England—Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard and Alvar Aalto’s Baker House at MIT—along with seminal late-modern buildings such as Boston City Hall and the Yale Center for British Art. Today, many contemporary design stars have built structures across New England, including Frank Gehry, Rafael Moneo, Norman Foster, Herzog & de Meuron, Michael Hopkins, Renzo Piano, Charles Correa, Fumihiko Maki, and Tadao Ando. The finalists for a competition for a new contemporary art museum on Boston’s waterfront included Switzerland’s Peter Zumthor and Studio Granda from Iceland. The only local firm considered for the museum was the then relatively young Office dA; principals Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de León went on to fame as architectural educators beyond Boston. Although not unique to New England, the whole mentality of "if-you-are-good-you-must-be-from-somewhere-else" is found here. As one might expect, Boston is the center of most architectural activity in the region. Yet, despite a heroic postwar age of Brutalism, too much contemporary architecture barely rises above the level of commercial real estate. With the exception of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art and David Hacin’s District Hall, much of the frantic new downtown construction features the kind of glass boxes that pierce city skylines from Dubai to Shanghai. The city’s embarrassingly named Innovation District (often called the Inundation District due to its propensity for flooding) is scaleless, overbearing, and disconnected from the soul of Boston. OMA’s new scheme for the area—which the architects gratuitously refer to as “a dynamic and vibrant area that is quickly emerging as one of the most exciting neighborhoods and destinations in the country”—is an 18-story glass cube with the dreary moniker of 88 Seaport Boulevard. One might have hoped for more from OMA’s first Boston commission. The block will offer almost half a billion square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of retail, and a paltry 5,000 square feet for civic and cultural use. Its gimmick is slicing the building into two sections with some terracing and plantings sandwiched in between. OMA disingenuously claims this double-volume exercise “creates diverse typologies for diverse industries,” and furthermore “generates an opportunity to draw in the district’s public domain.” In short, Boston will get an off-the-shelf dystopian nightmare. However, the Engineering Research Center at Brown University by KieranTimberlake is not just another knockoff. Although flush from the controversial but triumphant U.S. Embassy in London, the Philadelphians’ latest New England project is what good contemporary architecture ought to be. The $88-million, 80,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building is both understated and environmentally responsible. Its 22 pristine labs steer the Ivy League school into uncharted territory in nano research, energy studies, and information technology. The ERC is a triumph, especially given Brown’s decades of struggle to find an appropriate contemporary architectural voice. Recent work on the Providence campus includes an international relations institute by Rafael Viñoly—the design of which was dumbed down to mollify historic preservationists; a tepid Maya Lin sculpture; and an awkwardly sited Diller Scofidio + Renfro art center that was commissioned to show that Brown could do trendy and edgy. These common missteps are best exemplified by the university’s first competition for an athletic center. Although the competition was officially won by SHoP, the donor sponsoring it declared his dislike of modern architecture and demanded the school hire Robert A.M. Stern instead. The cutesy Georgian result is predictably bland. The ERC was ahead of schedule and under budget, and rather than treating Rhode Islanders as rubes, the architects created what Stephen Kieran calls “a nice piece of Providence urbanism.” While the firm’s great strength is diminishing the environmental impact of their buildings, the ERC also contributes a handsome facade to the campus’s traditional buildings. The fiberglass-reinforced concrete fins, the building’s signature element, impose a timeless probity worthy of Schinkel. If KieranTimberlake grows weary of being identified as the designers of the $1-billion embassy that Trump slammed as “lousy and horrible,” imagine how tired Tod Williams and Billie Tsien must be of consistently being tagged with the label “designers of the Obama Library.” Is a client choosing them because of the reflected fame? Will all new works by the New York-based architects be measured against that Chicago shrine? Yet Williams and Tsien have created a number of noteworthy academic works in New England that deserve similar attention, including buildings at Bennington and Dartmouth. Their theater and dance building at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, is almost complete. Here, the very long shadow is not cast by the architects’ own projects, but by Louis Kahn’s library across campus. Kahn’s brick tribute to 19th-century Yankee mills—and the symmetry of Georgian style—is one of the great pieces of architecture in New England. The big block of the drama building by Williams and Tsien wisely does not choose to echo Kahn but is curiously almost a throwback to the early Brutalism of I. M. Pei. It establishes a more rugged character with a marvelous texture composed of gray Roman bricks. A more satisfying Granite State structure by Williams and Tsien is a library, archives, and exhibition complex at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. MacDowell is a century-old artists’ colony where thousands of painters, writers, and musicians, including James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Willa Cather, have sought quiet and isolation in a collection of rustic cabins in the woods. Thornton Wilder wrote his classic play Our Town during his time here. Williams and Tsien’s sensitive addition to the colony’s 1920s library is only 3,000 square feet, cost around $2 million, and is an exquisitely crafted gem. The single-story library is constructed of a nearly black granite. Set in a birch grove created by the leading modern landscape architects in Boston, Reed Hilderbrand, this gathering place for residents appears at one with the rocky soil and forests of Northern New England. A 23-foot-tall outdoor chimney flanking the entrance plaza to the library makes reference to the hearths in all of the MacDowell studios. It also looks like a primitive stele, giving the entire ensemble an aspect that is more primal than modern. Another prominent New York architect, Toshiko Mori, has produced a simple yet elegant warehouse for an art museum in the faded seaport and art destination of Rockland, Maine. Built to house a long-time contemporary art cooperative that had no permanent collection and only inadequate facilities for exhibitions and classes, the saw-toothed clerestories at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) make reference to New England factories while bringing in what the architect calls “that special Maine light.” Like those functional structures, Mori used economical, non-custom materials such as plasterboard and corrugated zinc that wrap the exterior, embracing the lack of funds to her advantage. Despite the nod to Rockland’s working class vibe, Mori created a thoughtfully wrought sophisticated work of art on an unremarkable side street. Mori’s Japanese heritage comes through in her subtle proportions based on a 4-foot grid. The CMCA offers a refreshing contrast to extravagantly costly new museums by superstar architects—the 11,000-square-foot arts center cost only $3.5 million. Mori has crafted a museum based on flexibility rather than attitude. A summer resident of nearby North Haven, she endowed her simple statement with an air of Yankee frugality. But perhaps the most encouraging new project is the $52-million John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A cooperative venture of three departments in three different colleges—architecture, landscape, and building technology—the autumn-hued, aluminum-wrapped school embodies the dynamic spirit of New England’s first publicly supported architecture program. The 87,000-square-foot studio and administrative space is the work of Boston–based Leers Weinzapfel and landscape designer Stephen Stimson, with contributions from the faculty-cum-clients. Construction Technology chair Alexander Schreyer, for example, a guru of heavy-timber structural systems, helped fashion what is perhaps the largest wood-frame building on the East Coast. The zipper trusses that span the 84-by-56-foot, two-story-high common area demonstrate the inventiveness of wood technology. The glulam trusses arrived on-site precut and were snapped together with pins. In short, the academic contributors got to show off their research and also benefit from it. In a region noted for some of the nation’s oldest and most renowned design schools, the Design Building announces the arrival of the new kid on the block. Its handsome envelope is pierced by asymmetrically placed tall and narrow fenestration as a nod to the doors of the tobacco barns that are the university’s neighbors in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley. From its roots as a fledgling offering in the art department in the early 1970s, design education at UMass has grown into a powerhouse. As the core of a complex of postwar and contemporary architecture, the Design Building helps to bring Roche Dinkeloo’s Brutalist Fine Arts Center into contact with a business school designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). While BIG’s work is sometimes incredibly innovative, the firm’s UMass project looks as if it might be another example of a second-tier work foisted on a boondocks location. Less flashy than its newer neighbor, Leers Weinzapfel’s Design Building is nonetheless a bold, homegrown achievement. New England’s patrimony is a tapestry of local and outside talent. A significant regional building would not be a postmodern structure in the shape of a lighthouse or a neotraditional re-creation of a Richardson library, but something like the UMass studios. Capturing the spirit of the best of New England design depends little upon reputation and huge expenditure. Rather, there is a direct correlation between realizing a quality work of art and understanding the region’s history of wresting a hard-won life from the granite earth. The challenge for successfully practicing architecture in New England is accepting an uncompromising intellectual toughness that demands respect for the eminently practical as well as the aspirational.
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Wheel of Misfortune

New York City’s massive Staten Island ferris wheel may never spin
For the past six years, the St. George neighborhood of Staten Island in New York City has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of what would be one of the city’s greatest landmark attractions: the giant, 630-foot New York Wheel with views of the New York Harbor, Statue of Liberty, and New York City skyline. While over $400 million has been sunk into the project since its conception, little has been done to get the ball rolling. Construction has barely begun, and Mayor de Blasio recently signaled that it may not ever happen. The main problem is the cost. The New York City Economic Development Corporation reported that the estimated cost of the Wheel has skyrocketed from $250 million when the project was first proposed in 2012 to a devastating $999 million under the de Blasio administration. When the Wheel’s developer, New York Wheel LLC, asked the city for $140 million in support, de Blasio rejected their pleas, refusing to bail out the floundering project. His administration told New York 1 that the city government is “clear-eyed about the risks of putting public money into an expensive, speculative project.” The New York Wheel promised to transform the humble yet densely packed neighborhood of St. George into a world-class, waterfront destination. Aside from the Wheel itself, whose 36 spacious and climate-controlled pods would provide visitors with fine food, drink, and breathtaking views of the city, the site also comprises five acres of publically accessible grass space for events, a state-of-the-art children’s playground, and a terminal building with restaurants, shops, and boutiques. The project would have potentially revitalized Staten Island, a borough that has long been neglected by New York City tourists. Yet the government’s decision to oppose the funding of the New York Wheel comes after a surge of similar projects in cities like Berlin and Beijing that eventually failed due to a lack of support and income. “Despite many recent conversations with the Wheel developer, we remain convinced that public funds are too scare and valuable to be leveraged for this venture,” an official with the Economic Development Corporation told New York 1. Since the Wheel’s developer and former contractor, Mammoet-Starneth, hoped to rely on the city for financial provision, the two parties were forced to craft a new deal that would give the development team until January 7, 2019 to hire a new contractor and complete the project. According to Staten Island Advance, a hearing on a motion to approve the agreement has been set for September 21. Until then, the fate of the Wheel remains unknown.
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Earthworks

The American Society of Landscape Architects names their best projects of 2018
Rejoice, lovers of landscape architecture, because the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has published their 2018 ASLA Professional Awards and awarded their top honors to projects across the U.S. and Canada. The Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates–designed Brooklyn Bridge Park, a project twenty years in the making but closing in on the finish line, took home the Award of Excellence in the General Design category. The transformation of a formerly-industrial landscape into a leisure-oriented waterfront park that simultaneously knits together formerly disconnected communities paved the way for an entire generation of similar projects. Ross Barney Architects and Sasaki’s revitalization of the Chicago Riverwalk, another urban landscape project that has been heavily lauded in the past, was recognized with a General Design Honor award. The ASLA chose a wide variety of winners this year. West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture’s master planning and landscaping of the Main Fountain Garden at the Longwood Gardens was honored alongside a culturally sensitive native cemetery in Nunavut, Canada, and an international sculpture center in the grasslands of Fishtail, Montana. In the Residential Design category, the Word + Carr Design Group’s Balcones Residence in Austin, Texas, received the Award of Excellence. The landscape balances positive and negative space and creates a dialogue with the house’s boxy, concrete forms while requiring little maintenance. The top prize in the Analysis and Planning category went to A Colorado Legacy: I-25 Conservation Corridor Master Plan, a master plan by the Design Workshop - Aspen which created a strategic vision for a 17-mile-long stretch of Interstate 25. Other than offering solutions to the urban sprawl surrounding the interstate, the plan serves strategies for preserving up to 100,000 acres of open space while promoting sensible development. Three projects received Honor awards in the Research category, each tackling resiliency in one form or another. The University of Pennsylvania’s interactive Atlas for the End of the World - Atlas for the Beginning of the Anthropocene tracks the decline of biodiversity worldwide as conservation clashes with development and climate change; Mahan Rykiel Associates tracked the 1.5 million cubic yards of sediment dredged from Baltimore Harbor in Design with Dredge: Resilient Landscape Infrastructure in the Chesapeake Bay; and Ayers Saint Gross explored sustainability strategies for the National Aquarium in Baltimore with their Urban Aquatic Health: Integrating New Technologies and Resiliency into Floating Wetlands project. In the Communications category, the Landscape Architecture Section, Knowlton School, The Ohio State University took the Award of Excellence for their free, online library of historical landscapes. The database, 100 Years of Landscape Architecture at The Ohio State University, offers virtual tours of historical and contemporary landscapes around the world, inlcuding in virtual reality, and is meant to serve as both a teaching and landscape architecture recruiting tool. Last but certainly not least, Design Workshop received the Landmark Award for their From Weapons to Wildlife: The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Management Plan. The ambitious plan demonstrates how a 17,000-acre Superfund site could be converted into one of the country’s largest urban wildlife refuges. Now in its third phase, the plan was put into implantation in 1992 as the U.S. government and Shell struggled to remediate what was once a testing ground for biological and chemical weapons. A full list of this year’s Professional Award winners is available here. No less important are the recently announced 2018 ASLA Student Awards, available here.
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Digging Deeper

Amos Rex brings underground art and a lunar playscape to Helsinki
A pink gecko scuttles across a psychedelic digital landscape, deftly navigating a tangled maze of drifting butterflies, waddling alligators, and a pair of pensive whales passing below. Stepping on any creature will result in its explosive demise, yet simply navigating the trippy environment renders such destruction inevitable. This sort of high-tech super-nature is par for the course in Japanese art collective teamLab’s immersive exhibitions but a first for Helsinki, Finland—and Amos Rex, the new art museum hosting the group’s first show in the Nordic region. The five-year, $64-million Amos Rex project was carried out by local Finnish firm JKMM and supported largely by Konstsamfundet, the association behind the old Amos Rex Art Museum (RIP 1965–2017). The project involved both a $17-million facelift of Lasipalatsi, the "Glass Palace" built in central Helsinki in the 1930s by three Finnish architecture students for the 1940 Helsinki Olympics (which was postponed until 1952 due to the Second World War), as well as the construction of a new underground art museum particularly well-suited for new media and immersive installation art. Because Lasipalatsi was originally supposed to be temporary, its young designers received carte blanche, resulting in an ambitious Functionalist fun home that includes a cinema, restaurants, shops, and a backdoor public square surrounded by 19th-century neoclassical barracks. Almost destroyed in the 1980s but listed and restored in the 1990s when it reemerged with a glorious inner coat of pastels, the Glass Palace is a resilient building with a tumultuous past. JKMM have taken care to preserve much of this history, including its doors and windows, fitted furniture and movie seats, plus the first outdoor neon sign in Finland. The revitalized 550-seat art deco cinema and new film program will be the delight of many a cinephile, yet the most compelling aspect of Lasipalatsi—and where the old most energetically meets the new—is out back. Once the site of military parades, the historic public square has been transformed into a surreal lunar landscape, where a series of bulbous domes sporting large round windows now connects a veritable jungle gym of a plaza to an underground art hub. “I was sitting in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, when suddenly a man with a stroller appeared right outside the window of our second-floor office,” grins Timor Riitamaa, the head of communications and marketing at Amos Rex. “That was when I realized the park was open.” Positioned somewhere between alien topography and an ancient lifeform, the textured concrete playscape is a total hit in Helsinki. Sunbathers, selfie-snapping teens, Instagram influencers, romping children, and even daredevil parents can be seen ascending the five volcano-like protrusions to peer down into the subterranean art world below. Within the museum, sliding butts, squished noses and photography wars are now as common a view as the art, which unfurls in a columnless 24,000-square-foot gallery space. Building underground is never easy, and for JKMM it involved burrowing through nearly 140,000 square feet of hard bedrock found right underneath the city’s surface. Their approach was slow but steady—and went largely unnoticed. The square closed in 2015 so that the architects could carry out miniature controlled explosions, timed for every four minutes so the Helsinki Metro system could run undisturbed. It was a teeth-gritting exercise, but little of that angst can be felt from the ethereal white staircase connecting Lasipalatsi to the new museum lobby below. Descending the stairs, a generous view out onto the square framing Lasipalatsi’s old columns beside new sci-fi domes is swallowed up by a cloud of soft lighting. Designed by Finnish company Doctor Design, the textured ceiling of pleated fabric shades diffuses light through rows of flower-like pendants. Tightly bundled together in a way that floats between surrealism and Finnish National Romanticism, the lights are a clear nod to Lasipalatsi’s heritage. The ceiling flower field yields to two large tunnels ending in angled circular skylights that peer out onto the public plaza some 20 feet above. One offers a significant view out onto the staircase of the old theatre, while the second was framed by the tiny hands and faces of several miniature onlookers during my visit. Futuristic circular benches are positioned directly below, seemingly at the ready for sky-gazers. “We wanted the feeling of going underground to be as positive and light as possible,” says Kai Kartio, director of Amos Rex. “We had to go under, but our solution was to bring the museum upwards—you always have contact with daylight,” confirms Freja Stahlberg, the project architect. The extent of the sculptural skylights’ magnetic effect on the public square above was a delightful surprise for both architect and museum. Back below ground, Massless, the inaugural exhibition by teamLab, echoes the world-making imagination of the architects. Four immersive installations make full use of JKMM’s revolutionary modular museum layout, realized through an acoustic-disk ceiling made from perforated aluminum and a wooden gridded floor below which “data, air, and power all flow,” according to the architect. The museum’s high-tech fixtures meet their match in the 137 projectors, motion sensor technology, and eight miles of cables that make up teamLab’s digital multiverse. The exhibition consists of fan favorites like Graffiti Nature as well as Vortex of Light Particles, a site-specific piece that involves an inverted waterfall seemingly bent on sucking visitors into an Anish Kapoor-like black hole that inhabits the main domed ceiling. Vortex is clearly the stuff of tripping nerds’ dreams (it was a hit among Silicon Valley tech bros at Pace in Palo Alto), while its dark dreamscape subverts the light-filled expectations of Amos Rex, proving the museum’s versatility. “Virtual reality isolates you in a virtual space. We are trying to bring everyone back to a physical space,” said teamLab member Nonaka Kazumasa. While Massless uses digital technology to bring its viewers closer to nature and each other, Amos Rex performs the larger function of bringing untraditional art experiences to Helsinki’s public in a spatially-sensitive and cost-effective way. It is a cunning answer to the city's future urban development plan that prioritizes inner-city densification, but Amos Rex should also be seen as a testament to the merits of building deeper and the informal spaces for public play that can bubble up to the surface.