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.
Posts tagged with "Arkansas":
The University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture & Design will be the inaugural recipient of the annual el dorado Prize. The distinction is sponsored by the Kansas City–based architecture firm el dorado as part of its 20th anniversary. Awarded each winter, starting this year, the prize will work with a single university annually to identify high performing students. These students, entering into their final year of school, will be invited to interview for el dorado’s internship summer program. These paid internships will also include an additional stipend as a reward for academic excellence. Each year the prize will go to a different university, with faculty being asked to nominate students. Interns will be versed in the specific way in which el dorado runs its practice. This includes design build and cross-disciplinary design. The pick of Arkansas as the first recipient of the prize was an easy choice for David Dowell, principal at el dorado. “Longstanding relationships with the University of Arkansas faculty and alumni, including staff and collaborators, and a growing body of architectural work in Northwest Arkansas make this inaugural choice a natural one,” remarked Dowell in a press release. The el dorado prize joins in on a long tradition of professional offices running academic programs and scholarships. These include the PGAV Destinations recent support of Washington University’s Alberti Program and the prestigious SOM Prize. Peter MacKeith commented on the importance of the prize to the school, “The Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design is pleased to be the inaugural site for the el dorado Prize, an important summer internship program that will stimulate and recognize the excellence of professional architectural education in the Midwest region.”
Here's how a phone booth on the side of a highway in Arkansas landed on the National Register of Historic Places
It's no TARDIS, but the Prairie Grove, Arkansas, Airlight telephone booth, on U.S. 62 in front of the Colonial Motel, has defied cell phones and a near fatal encounter with a runaway SUV to become the first phone booth listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1959, this metal-and-glass Airlight booth was nominated in April by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. On November 9th, the National Park Service (NPS) accepted the Airlight into its pantheon of historic structures. Initially, the NPS had hesitations about the nomination. Arkansas Online reports that the National Register/survey coordinator for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Ralph Wilcox, received a letter from the National Register stating that the "'listing blurs the line between a 'place' and an artifact, and it begs the questions about where the line between significance and nostalgia is drawn.'" Wilcox emphatically disagreed, and re-submitted a nomination that emphasized the Airlight's distinctive historical characteristics. Prior to the development of the Airlight in 1954, Wilcox explained, phone booths were mostly made of wood and installed indoors. Developed for Bell Telephone System, the Airlight is the first telephone booth in the United States designed especially for the outdoors. The phone booth was intended to serve motorists traveling on the adjacent highway. Wilcox's response has precedent among progressive voices in the critical establishment. Almost a decade ago, BLDGBLOG founder Geoff Manaugh called for a democratization of the definition of architecture in a jeremiad on old school, Adorno-laden architectural criticism. To Manaugh, (some) architecture criticism repels potential readers because critics disdain the vernacular, the architecture of everyday space that most people experience:
Temporary Air Force bases, oil derricks, secret prisons, multi-story car parks, J.G. Ballard novels, Robocop, installation art, China Miéville, Department of Energy waste entombment sites in the mountains of southwest Nevada, Roden Crater, abandoned subway stations, Manhattan valve chambers, helicopter refueling platforms on artificial islands in the South China Sea, emergency space shuttle landing strips, particle accelerators, lunar bases, Antarctic research stations, Cape Canaveral, day-care centers on the fringes of Poughkeepsie, King of Prussia shopping malls, chippies, Fat Burger stands, Ghostbusters, mega-slums, Taco Bell, Salt Lake City multiplexes, Osakan monorail hubs, weather-research masts on the banks of the Yukon, Hadrian's Wall, Die Hard, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Akira, Franz Kafka, Gormenghast, San Diego's exurban archipelago of bad rancho housing, Denver sprawl, James Bond films, even, yes, Home Depot – not every one of those is a building, but they are all related to architecture.The register divides important sites into five typologies: buildings, districts, sites, structures, and "large objects." The National Register has not shied away from kitschy or unusual listings in the latter category. In August 2002, the NPS granted a register spot to the World's Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville, Illinois. The 70-foot-tall condiment container has a capacity of 100,000 gallons and was built in 1949 for the Brooks (rich and tangy!) catsup company. Generally, properties have to be at least 50 years old to be listed on the National Register. According to David Parks, president of Prairie Grove Telephone Company, there are no plans to add an official marker to the site. The telephone company has thought about removing the phone booth, but keeps it standing for nostalgic purposes. It's a revenue generator, besides: the coin box yields three to four dollars in change per year.
Walmart heirs hope the Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program will ramp up architectural standards in the state
In a bid to bolster an economic and population boom in Northwest Arkansas, plans are afoot to shore up and streamline the region’s architecture and landscape design. The Walton Family Foundation recently announced the launch of the Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program, in which previously vetted architects and public-space projects will receive financial support from the foundation at every stage of the design phase. The selection committee of distinguished architecture professionals and educators will earmark projects that are sustainable, contribute to the region’s walkability and, most of all, inspire a “sense of place.” While Northwest Arkansas comprises four cities—Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville—the program will be concentrated in the Benton and Washington counties, whose income per capita, while $2,000 shy of the national average, oustrips the other cities in the region by nearly 20 percent. “I think the interest within the building and design community has never been higher,” said Karen Minkel, Home Region program director at the Walton Family Foundation. “It seems like every week there’s an article about a downtown masterplan. I think there’s a general interest across the region. This program provides resources to grantees in that they can think carefully about how their project can contribute to the overall sense of place.” The program’s winning formula consists of complementing the public welfare objectives of school districts, county, state, and local municipalities and nonprofits with the cutting-edge design smarts of world-class architects, who will be handpicked for their ability to identify with the region’s character. Columbus, Indiana, stands as an exemplar of the power of nonprofits to raise the image of a city through design standards. An architecture aficionado and the former Chairman and CEO of Cummins, J. Irwin Miller started the Cummins Foundation’s architecture program in 1960, beginning with grants disbursed to schools in the town’s outskirts. It later spurred unprecedented designs like the glass-fronted, half-moon Columbus City Hall by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Eliel Saarinen’s strikingly modern First Christian Church, now city emblems. Meanwhile, Northwest Arkansas’ bragging rights include the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, designed by Moshe Safdie, the 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville by Deborah Berke, the award-winning Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs by Faye Jones, and the Garland Center in Fayetteville by Knowles Blunck Architecture. Minkel relishes the idea of “complementing and reinvigorating the history of architectural design in the region, and the idea that it will become part of the vernacular and we can reinterpret it in different ways.” Like the Cummins program, the Walton Family Foundation foresees attracting and retaining top human resources as a byproduct of next-level design, an economic driver and a bid to raise the city’s architectural profile. “The program in Columbus, Indiana, has become a tourist mecca. We think this program can potentially benefit tourism in the region,” said Minkel. “If we talk about how it can contribute to sense of place and the overall urban fabric, that’s what’s attracting people to our overall downtown area and that’s what adding to our identity.” Interested architects have until September 16 to submit material for review. Applications should include a letter of interest, examples of five past projects, and the firm’s approach to creating a sense of place. For more information, visit the foundation's website.
Marlon Blackwell, principal of Marlon Blackwell Architects and distinguished professor and department head at the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, practices in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the temptation to design according to a derivative vernacular—and the risk of descending into quaintness—is great. Blackwell seeks instead to operate in the space between the vernacular and the universal, to create buildings that are simultaneously both and neither. "What emerges is something that I like to call the strangely familiar," he said. "We're working with forms in a cultural context that have a first reading of being familiar, but on a second, third, or fourth reading are clearly transgressive to either the local typology or the vernacular. What we try to do is kind of de-typify things—it's really about trying to find or develop an idea about performative surfaces." When Blackwell, who will deliver the afternoon keynote address at next month's Facades+ Dallas conference, talks about "performative surfaces," he does not necessarily mean high-tech building skins. "What I'm really talking about is something that's both sensual and sensible," he said. Blackwell prefers a more commonsensical approach to performance. "It's like the chicken farmer," he explained. "Chicken farmers have figured out that if they orient their large chicken sheds so that the narrow part faces east and west, the chickens don't cook before their time." In Arkansas, even high-profile projects like his Vol Walker Hall and Steven L. Anderson Design Center require careful attention to costs. "Given the modest budgets here, most of what we have to achieve is passive," he said. "I'm trying to instill this into buildings that don't necessarily come with honorific programs: they're everyday sorts of buildings, so consequently they're modest in their application or execution, but they're very high in their aspiration." Blackwell's early passion for drawing resonates through his work today. "I grew up as a cartoonist, so everything I've ever conceived of artistically or architecturally has been conceived of as a visage—as a profile or a silhouette," he said. "I really think of the buildings that we make as figures in a place—as having a figural presence. They become the expressive character of a place, and that expressive character is achieved through things like the envelope, rather than trying to achieve expressive character merely through form. As a result, we're able to build things." Blackwell hopes his own career can serve as a positive lesson to Facades+ Dallas attendees. "I'd like them to walk away thinking: I can do that," he concluded. "Not everybody can be Renzo Piano. There's that everyday kind of work that we do—there's no reason the aspiration has to be any different." To learn more about Facades+ Dallas or to register, visit the conference website.
University of Arkansas addition celebrates the future with a contemporary rewrite of Neoclassicism.As head of the architecture department and distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, Marlon Blackwell was uniquely qualified to oversee the renovation and expansion of the school's home, Vol Walker Hall. To unite the school's landscape architecture, architecture, and interior design departments under one roof for the first time, Blackwell's eponymous firm designed a contemporary west wing to mirror the east bar on the existing Beaux-Arts style building, constructed in the 1930s as the university library. But the Steven L. Anderson Design Center—which tied for Building of the Year in AN's 2014 Best of Design Awards—is more than a container for 37,000 square feet of new studio, seminar, and office space. It is also a teaching tool, a lesson in the evolution of architectural technology writ in concrete, limestone, glass, steel, and zinc. "Our strategy was to create a counterweight to the existing building," explained Blackwell. Rather than a layered steel-frame construction, Marlon Blackwell Architect opted for a post-tensioned concrete structure to convey a sense of mass and volume. "We also wanted to demonstrate what you can do with new technology like post-tensioned concrete, such as introducing a cantilever and introducing a profile that has minimal columns in the spaces," he said. "All of that is a didactic tool for our students to contrast and compare with the load-bearing technology of the existing structure." The exterior of the Steven L. Anderson Design Center also reflects on changes to architectural practice during the last 80 years. "We really wanted to develop a strong profile of the building, in contrast to Vol Walker Hall," said Blackwell. He describes the effect as a figure-ground reversal: where in the older structure the mass of the building is the ground and the windows and ornament act as figure, in the new wing the mass is the figure and the fenestration the ground. To create what Blackwell terms a "condition of resonance" between the Design Center and Vol Walker Hall, the architects engaged Clarkson Consulting to develop an architectural concrete to match the color of a local Arkansas limestone no longer available. They echoed the Indiana limestone on the older wing with panels sourced from a quarry only 50 miles from the original. But instead of grouting the limestone cladding on the new wing, Blackwell chose a limestone rain screen system from Stone Panels. "That allows us to go much thinner but much larger," he said. "Again, we're using the same materials but showing how the advancement of technology allows for a different expression of architecture." The defining feature of the Design Center is the more than 200-foot-long glass and steel curtain wall on the western facade. Knowing that the western exposure would provide the only source of natural light for the new wing, the architects worked to balance the need for light against the threat of solar gain. To complement the existing building, they chose a fascia steel curtain wall custom-fabricated by local company L&L Metal Fabrication. With curtain wall consultants Heitmann & Associates, Blackwell developed a brise soleil comprising 3/4-inch by 18-inch frit glass fins, angled to filter sunlight into the Design Center's 43-foot-deep studios. "What we like about it, too, is that it's one big window," said Blackwell. "It allows it to feel as if we've cut a section right through the building. At night the entire facade becomes a beacon, allowing for a nice interface between the school of architecture and the rest of the community." Other details, including the monolithic concrete pours designed to lighten the Design Center's connection to the ground, and zinc cladding used on the top floor to sharpen the profile of the main body, continue the dialogue between the new structure and its Neoclassical neighbor. "There are a lot of little things that give a tautness to the expression of the new addition, and give it its own identity," said Blackwell. "But at the same time, one of the things we were faithful to was trying to analyze and uncover units of measure and proportion on the old building, and apply that to ours." Perhaps more importantly, the building works as a design school—and Blackwell would know. "There's certainly contrast on the outside," he said. "But there's an almost resonant seamlessness on the inside."
Marlon Blackwell, architect and professor at the Fay Jones School of Architecture, and Steve Luoni, architect and director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, have unveiled a masterplan for converting Little Rock's Main Street into a cultural center. The plan titled, The Creative Corridor: A Main Street Revitalization will include a pedestrian promenade, outdoor furniture, LED lighting installations, rain gardens, affordable living-units for artists and a renovation of downtown buildings for mixed-use. Luoni notes that execution is expected to occur in phases. The first objective is to separate the district from the rest of Main Street by using original lighting—potentially made up of old city street lights and composed into a light art installation—distinct landscaping, and purpose-built architectural pavement. The second phase plans to anchor the site at the intersection of Capitol and Main Street with a central public square containing an outdoor amphitheater and large LED screen reminiscent of Times Square monitors. The third phase hopes to densify the perimeters of Main Street with trees, rain gardens, terraces and a pedestrian promenade. The fourth is the creation of the transit district in coordination with the Metroplan’s scheduled expansion proposals and new bike lanes. As the project gets going, Little Rock’s Mayor Mike Studola plans to use the city’s EPA grant to create smaller-scale demonstrations of the ideas presented in the masterplan. Although the plan is intended to place Little Rock on the map of towns with unique urban designs, execution relies heavily on private dollars. In order to receive funding the location would have to draw crowds as an art center and Luoni has already discussed receiving support from various visual arts, film, dance and music organizations including the Arkansas Repertory Theater and Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. The presentation of “The Creative Corridor” was held at the Arkansas Repertory Theater and made possible by a $150,000 Our Town Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Upon earning the NEA grant Luoni commented, “The project has the potential to be a national model for consolidating cultural arts functions—artist housing, production spaces, galleries and performance spaces—as a catalyst for sustained urban development in downtown. We are proud that the NEA recognizes this potential and has directed resources from its signature grant program for this project." As of yet, funding for the full completion of the proposal has not been determined but Mayor Studola, architect Luoni and architect Blackwell remain on board to see it through.
Walmart has been trying to expand into cities like New York and Washington, D.C. for a while now sparking debate about big box retail in urban centers along the way. To find space, Walmart will likely have to abandon the supercenter in favor of a more petite space, but slimming down to a mere 3,500 square feet sounds pretty extreme. Billed as the smallest Walmart in the world, the new store opened last Friday and shares space in a new mixed-use building with boutiques and a froyo shop and shoulders right up to the sidewalk rather than the ubiquitous parking lot of traditional big-box retail. Packed into the store's 3,500 square feet is a full-service pharmacy, replacing a recently closed campus pharmacy and general goods and groceries. (That's only 2% the size of a typical 185,000 square foot Supercenter!) If this a model that could work in urban areas around the country? Advertising Age speculates that the Walmart on Campus store could be a sign for a leaner, meaner Walmart of the future, citing CEO Bill Simon's calls for testing out new varieties of small stores. Could you be running down to the corner Walmart in years to come? Designed by Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture of Des Moines, Iowa and Amirmoez Foster Hailey Johnson Architects of Fayetteville, Arkansas, the new Garland Avenue Shops include the 30,000 square foot UA Bookstore along with 20,000 square feet of retail space, of which Walmart has taken 3,500. A slat-covered, 1,500 spot parking deck hovers above the retail space and a central courtyard with outdoor seating and bike racks faces away from the street. (More photos of the building on flickr.) [ Via Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, photo by Walter Lang. ]