Posts tagged with "Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates":

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Tulsa's Gathering Place aims for reconciliation

What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California, and Hunter’s Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Gathering Place park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the product of a dream of 77-year-old billionaire philanthropist George Kaiser and of several decades-long experiments by the landscape architecture team at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). What Kaiser originally intended to be a series of riverfront “gathering spots” to activate the city has become a singular, whimsical, and lush 66.5-acre landscape that has attracted over 2.8 million people since opening last year. AN spoke with Scott Streeb, Matt Urbanski, and Michael Voelkel at MVVA about designing the park and sourcing materials both locally and globally for “the most complex topography [they] have ever done.” Taking cues from fanciful and innovative European playgrounds, their goal was to turn several desolate plots of land into an inclusive, truly one-of-a-kind environment. By many accounts, they succeeded; this summer, TIME listed the park as one of the greatest places in the world.

Beyond its ambitious design agenda, Gathering Place has also aimed to unify the historically segregated city. Tulsa was formally settled in 1836 and by the 20th century had earned the nickname “the Oil Capital of the World.” Money from the energy business flowed into the city, bringing with it a serious construction boom during the Art Deco era. Despite growing prosperity, race relations were tense. In 1921, white crowds rioted for 16 hours in the affluent neighborhood of Greenwood, then known as Black Wall Street, killing local residents and destroying black-owned businesses and buildings. It was one of the worst attacks on African Americans in U.S. history, and Tulsa still hasn’t fully recovered.

Gathering Place is being marketed as a space where the region’s diverse communities can come together. A decade ago, in talks between MVVA and the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), key decisions were made to engage Tulsans in their vision for the future 100-acre landscape and to raise expectations of what 21st-century parks can do.

Funding

Over 80 philanthropic and corporate donors, including GKFF, funded the entirety of the $465 million park. Though built with private dollars, Gathering Place is a public park: GKFF donated it to the River Parks Authority, the city and county agency in charge of public riverfront parks, in 2014, through Title 60, a public trust law. River Parks now owns both the land and the park and oversaw the five-year construction effort.

Land

Gathering Place takes up four disparate, flat parcels of land along Riverside Drive, the adjacent four-lane commuter highway, that were purchased in 2009 by GKFF for $50 million. At the northern end was once a 35-acre estate owned by oil entrepreneur B. B. Blair. The historic Blair Mansion, built in 1952, was torn down in 2014 after a failed attempt by its previous owner to relocate the building. Two large-scale apartment complexes south of the site, totaling 494 units on 14 acres, were also demolished and its residents displaced to make way for a construction staging area. GKFF offered to pay for those affected to receive mental health services. Phase 2 of the park’s design will be built out in this location, south of the skate park (shown below) and will include a $45 million children’s museum by local firm KKT Architects, as well as a $24 million pedestrian bridge by MVVA.

Playground Equipment

MVVA and German playground manufacturer Richter Spielgeräte designed the park’s custom swings, water-play and sensory equipment, elephant slide, and four fantastical wooden castles that stand 30 feet in height. Danish design company Monstrum shaped additional wooden playscapes to look like the great blue herons (pictured here) and paddlefish found along the Arkansas River. The 160 playground structures and their installation cost about $11.5 million.

Plantings

In 2011, two years before construction began, MVVA began tagging around 600 existing trees on-site, some up to 200 years old, in an effort to monitor their health, and preserve and restore them. The firm then brought in 5,789 new trees sourced from over a dozen nurseries, two in Oklahoma and others in Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Illinois, and New York. The cohort includes over 90 species of evergreen and deciduous trees. Nearly 120 species of shrubs and over 200 species of perennials were selected as well and had to be stored in a greenhouse for up to three years before planting.

Buildings

There are three buildings on-site by Atlanta-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. The ONEOK Boathouse features a roof canopy made of 130 fiberglass-reinforced plastic panels in the shape of flying sails. The rest of the three-story building, which includes a steel and concrete frame, has floor-to-ceiling glass panels that Vitro Architectural Glass created using raw material and sand from Mill Creek, Oklahoma. Williams Lodge, the 25,000-square-foot structure that serves as an entrance to the park, blends into its surrounding landscape with native sandstone from Haskell County. These massive boulders integrated into the design range from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds.

Hardscaping

There are over 20 different surface materials used at Gathering Place, including eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas sandstone in various hues. In total, the walkways used 4,500 cubic yards of fill excavated from just across the Arkansas River. The stones that flank the entrance paths are also from an in-state quarry, similar to those found in the Four Season Garden, a series of rock towers, pictured below.

Terraforming

MVVA took 450,000 cubic yards of silt from the Arkansas River to create the 40 feet of grade change in the park necessary to bridge over Riverside Drive. Ohio-based engineering company Contech fabricated a set of precast concrete arches off-site in Broken Arrowhead, Oklahoma, that support the two 300-foot-long land bridges that help the park seamlessly connect to the waterfront.

Transit

Riverside Drive was shut down in July 2015 and reopened in September 2018 after construction ended. The City of Tulsa spent $40 million to widen and reconfigure the busy highway and for other infrastructure improvements, such as stormwater drainage and replacing sanitary sewers and water lines surrounding the site.

Because Gathering Place is located just five minutes south of downtown Tulsa and immediately west of the wealthier Maplewood Historic District, accessibility is an issue for nonsuburban communities. This summer, the park began providing free shuttle transportation to underserved neighborhoods in North Tulsa, scheduled to operate every other weekend.

Water

Because of the oppressive Tulsa heat, water plays a big role in the park, and its nearly-6-million-gallon central reservoir, Peggy’s Pond, serves as a source for irrigation. To create it, MVVA had to dig down to groundwater level, integrating 70 feet of grade change within the landscape. Wetland gardens at the northern end of the park work as a biofilter to clean the water that’s pumped out of the pond. Parking lot and highway runoff is also filtered through the gardens, and then through two large cisterns and below-grade, natural filtration basins. Wells throughout the site pull up clean water and redistribute it through the pond.

Maintenance

Half of the money raised went to capital investment and the other half created a $100 million endowment for the continued operations and maintenance of the landscape for the next 99 years. GGP Parks, LLC, is a subsidiary of the River Parks Authority that operates out of GKFF and coordinates the over 450 volunteers that help the park run every day. So far, both individuals and groups have completed 11,300 hours of volunteer work. There are also 200 full-time and part-time employees who specialize in horticulture, programming, community engagement, food service, and more. An underground maintenance warehouse spanning nearly 1 acre was built to house facilities management off-site.

Labor

Columbus, Kansas–based construction company Crossland took over the build-out efforts from Manhattan Construction in 2015 when initial preconstruction, utility, and dirt work was done. Since the park’s groundbreaking, any day sees upward of 150 to 500 people laboring across 27 work zones and 12 play areas. A total of $10.3 million was paid to both contractors, and 3.7 million man-hours were worked on-site.

Security

Over the last year, Gathering Place partnered with a local charity group, John 3:16, and the Mental Health Association of Tulsa to help employees and security teams better understand how to engage with the city’s homeless community. The park is open to all and does not operate fully in the late evening or early morning, but does welcome the homeless throughout the day.

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Steven Holl’s amble-worthy Hunters Point Library is finally open

Steven Holl has faced some real challenges with the Hunters Point Library in Long Island City, Queens—both artistic and pragmatic. Its completion after nine years can now be celebrated (construction began in 2015), but it’s a long time to wait for the $40 million, 22,000-square-foot-project, built by the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC). For the last year, precautions were made to adjust balconies off the central atrium space to prevent any suicide attempts. Nevertheless, it has been well put together by Steven Holl Architects, with Olaf Schmidt in charge, and opens today, September 24. Holl points out that what makes the library tick is its connection between what it looks like and how it’s experienced. He sums it up as a “browsing circuit,” comparable to his plan for an earlier unbuilt American Memorial Library in Berlin. For both there was the open stack, finding your own books, and seeing what others of interest were there at their side. In Queens, this is accomplished by suggesting readers movement along a multitude of stairways that are punctuated by levels with select bookcases off the sides, designed with shelves which accommodate readers’ books and/or their computers. Holl favors both artifacts, but he insists on the continuing presence of books. Holl also sees this space as a community center for presenting lectures, reciting poetry, or offering philosophical views. The latter can take place below, in the meeting room, or on the roof level at an outdoor setup with its dark wood seats. Literature for the earlier Berlin library tells of its fulfilling an aim of John Cotton Dana (1856-1929), the American librarian’s officiation of the open stack. Dana wasn’t alone, but the Americans open stacks library was actuated by him. Coming upon more than the original call number gives the reader a wider choice, a chance to browse. Inside—the exterior views have already been discussed—the good number of stairways suggest the presence of a Gianbattista Piranesi’s Carceri second state etching, Pier with a Lamp (1761). In 2007 Holl had rendered a watercolor painting based precisely on this print, transforming it over from a typical dark, mysterious, and haunting Piranesi to a brightly lit, upbeat image. This changeover in mood to a cheerful interior is the kind of atmosphere which John Cotton Dana prescribed for his ideal public library. He said,
Let the shelves be open, and the public admitted to them, and let the open shelve strike the keynote of the whole administration. The whole library should be permeated with a cheerful and accommodating atmosphere.
I would say that Holl has unknowingly fulfilled Dana’ s goal and maybe consciously paid homage to Piranesi. The cheerfulness of Holl’s library is—in spite of his knowledge of the persistence of doubt and uncertainty in our world–due to strong light coming in from the huge windows (modulated by metallic curtains) and enhanced by artificial lighting; LED and canisters lights provided by Dove and other companies. Answering Piranesi and some Cubists intents, there are theatrical views in addition to Holl’s fully tectonic field: A bold, slanting north/south white form resembling a beam (but is in actuality the underside of the egress stair clad with sheetrock) moving through a portion of the building is perpendicularly met by a curved mass and sheaved with bamboo, allowing for flickering light and shadow earth color effects, like early Cubist still lifes and landscapes. The photos above by Paul Warchol show how the library presents an ambiguous spatial field; the fragmented mass is a typical Cubist formal language. One other especially noteworthy interior view is the vaulting of the children’s area into an atrium space. The children’s area is across to the south, shielded by a curved vault of rounded steel tubes bent with metal decking spanning between, as observed by Justin den Herder of Silman, the engineering firm who helped realize the job. This structural element is also clad with bamboo panels allowing for a billowing curvature. The teen section is tucked away on the 5th level, off the atrium, and, above, on the roof deck, is the small outdoor theatre for lectures and cafe treats. Other contributors to Holl’s design were Michael Van Valkenburgh’s landscaping and Julianne Swartz’s optical devices. Van Valkenburg was hired to design a much more complicated scheme but the budget was sharply reduced, allowing only for several Honey Locust trees. Swartz’s four sculptural lenses were placed strategically along, and inside, the library to control views, echoing the playfulness of the sixties-era lens boxes designed by Mary Bauermeister. According to Swartz, “I make sculpture because it relates to the body.” This, in extension, is incredibly fitting for a design by Holl, since his work is ultimately tied to phenomenology. Alongside Holl’s sublime measures of the atrium, is his human scale and measurement throughout. Libraries around the globe have proliferated recently; they’re increasingly offering more than borrowed books. Is it too much to say, that our new community library in Queens, complete with its 50,000 books, now provides usefulness and beauty, equal to any of these others or even greater than some?
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TWA Hotel, Snøhetta projects, The Shed top TIME's World's 100 Greatest Places

TIME Magazine’s second annual list of the World’s 100 Greatest Places is here and several major, recently-opened cultural marvels secured top spots—two of which were just completed by Norweigan-firm Snøhetta. Put together by the editors and correspondents at TIME, as well as a handful of industry experts, the following parks, hotels, restaurant, and museums were voted highest because they exhibited four key factors: quality, originality, sustainability, innovation, and influence.  It’s interesting to note that only two principals of big-name firms that designed the projects below have made the TIME 100: The Most Influential People list in recent years: Liz Diller (2018) and David Adjaye (2017). The only architect to make the list this year, Jeanne Gang, didn’t have a new piece of architecture up for consideration among the World’s Greatest Places 2019. Not a single Bjarke Ingels Group project made the cut either.  Though it’s not clear why they weren’t chosen, it is possible to guestimate which soon-to-be-finished works across the globe might catch an editor’s eye in 2020 based on this year's finalists. See the TIME’s full list here and AN’s shorter, what-you-must-know version below to learn more:  The Shed New York City By Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group New York’s newest 200,000-square-foot art center only opened in April but it’s been one of the most talked-about building in Hudson Yards. Situated on West 30th Street and surrounded by new glass towers, the kinetic structure features a 120-foot-tall retractable outer shell covered in ETFE panels. It boasts eight different levels for rehearsals, large-scale exhibitions, and events, as well as live music, dance, and theater performances. According to DS+R, The Shed embodies the architecture of infrastructure.  All Square Minneapolis, Minnesota By Architecture Office Austin-based firm Architecture Office created a stand-out space in Minneapolis for the nonprofit/restaurant All Square. Unveiled in September 2018, the 900-square-foot, neon-lit eatery provides the formerly incarcerated with a place of employment and continuing education. The civil rights social enterprise was started by lawyer Emily Turner and has bragging rights to the best craft grilled cheese sandwiches in town. The Gathering Place Tulsa, Oklahoma By Michael Van Valkenburg Associates  Imagined by billionaire philanthropist George B. Kaiser, The Gathering Place is a 66.5-acre riverside park situated two miles from downtown Tulsa. It opened to the public last September and has since welcomed over 2 million people. New York-based landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and his team transformed a slate of land next to the Arkansas River into a veritable green theme park of activities for adults and children. It’s the largest public “gift park” in U.S. history; 80 philanthropic donors funded the construction of the park and created an endowment to secure its future.  Ruby City San Antonio, Texas By David Adjaye Associates Officially set to open this October, the 14,000-square-foot Ruby City holds the 800-piece art collection of the late Linda Pace, artist, philanthropist, and heiress to the Pace Foods salsa fortune. Constructed with a sparkling, rose-tinted concrete exterior made in Mexico, the museum complex includes a series of open galleries with sculptural skylights that bring the sun into the interior spaces. The project was created in collaboration with local firm Alamo Architects.  TWA Hotel Queens, New York By Lubrano Ciavarra Architects Flanking the backside of Eero Saarinen’s historic midcentury modern TWA Flight Center, the new TWA Hotel is a glass-clad, dual-structure composed of 512 sound-proof rooms, a rooftop infinity pool, and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck that looks out over incoming international flights. Guests started arriving at the Jet-Blue adjacent site in May to enjoy the recently-renovated terminal, completed by Beyer Blinder Belle, and its newly-opened dining options. The ultra-energy-efficient hotel also houses 50,000 square feet of underground events space.  Central Library Calgary, Canada By Snøhetta and DIALOG Snøhetta’s Central Library takes up 240,000 square feet of space in downtown Calgary and stands six stories tall. One of the many design elements that make the public building so attractive is its gleaming facade made of white aluminum and fritted glass, as well as the way it straddles an active rail line. On the inside, a massive oculus and sinuous wooden stair system give the 85-foot-tall atrium a light and airy, yet dramatic feel. The public project opened last November The National Museum of Qatar Doha, Qatar By Ateliers Jean Nouvel Qatar’s highly-anticipated National Museum came online in March and is part of a recent construction boom in the country as it prepares for the 2022 World Cup. Designed to mimic Qatar’s desert rose sand formations, the 430,000-square-foot institution stretches in a series of interlocking discs across a portside site in downtown Doha. The galleries inside tell both the story of the desert's natural history as well as the country’s evolution, cultural heritage, and future. Xiqu Centre Hong Kong, China By Revery Architecture  Hong Kong’s new opera house is covered in 13,000 curved aluminum fins arranged in a wave-like fashion—a design move inspired by the delicacy of theater curtains. Though the architecture itself is shaped like a box, the cladding gives it a texturized appearance that’s almost psychedelic to see up close. The cultural space, which opened in April, includes a 1,073-seat theater that floats above an interior plaza used for exhibitions and performances.  V&A Dundee Dundee, Scotland By Kengo Kuma As the second outpost of London’s Victoria and Albert Design Museum, the staggered, concrete facade of the V&A Dundee is a stark contrast to its historic sister site and makes it stand out amongst the industrial waterfront near downtown Dundee. Kengo Kuma inverted two pyramids for the outline of the structure, some of which juts out into the River Tay, to both evoke Scotland’s craggy, cliff-edged coastline and the shape of a ship on the sea. It opened its doors last September with a set of permanent exhibitions on Scottish design.  Statue of Unity Gujarat, India By Michael Graves Architecture & Design and sculptor Ram V. Sutar Standing 597 feet tall on an island in the Narmada River, this bronze statue is a larger-than-life replica of India’s first deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It was completed last November and since then, visitors have flocked to the western India state to climb the statue for unparalleled views of the nearby mountain range. Soon, its base is slated to become a resort.  Under Lindesnes, Norway By Snøhetta Finished in March, Under doubles as a partially-underwater marine biology research station and an ultra-exclusive restaurant. Snøhetta’s sunken “periscope” design dives 16 feet below the North Sea and features a 36-foot-long, 11-foot-tall window wall in the dining room. The exterior is clad in concrete, but the interior boasts other materials such as oak and terrazzo. 
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Michael Van Valkenburgh is slated to design a 77-acre linear park for Buffalo

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) is slated to transform Buffalo, New York’s old yet beloved waterfront park into a sweeping linear landscape and cultural destination along Lake Erie’s edge. The design team will reimagine the city’s 77-acre LaSalle Park as the new Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, named after the late owner of the Buffalo Bills. The redesign is part of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s big push to improve parks and trails in Western New York and Detroit. In October, the Foundation announced a $200 million investment it would split between the two locales, which includes the build-out of a new 22-acre waterfront park in Detroit also designed by MVVA. Though the New York–based landscape architecture firm had already unveiled renderings of the Motor City’s proposed park earlier this year, no firm had been chosen for the Buffalo project.  To Bob Shibley, dean of the University of Buffalo (UB) Regional Institute in the School of Architecture and Planning, who’s helping to spearhead the project, MVVA was a natural fit. The university helped form the Imagine LaSalle Focus Group, a team of 22 community stakeholders who toured successful park projects in Cincinnati, New York, and Chicago to gain inspiration for their hometown’s goals. “People were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about those projects,” said Shibley. “When the announcement was made that Micahel Van Valkenburgh would do Detroit and that both of our parks would be named after Wilson, it was obvious the parallel between the two cities was important.” This “paired park” idea isn’t an explicit design decision, said Shibley, but a nice nod to the Wilson Foundation and its commitment to improving the well-being of people living in both Buffalo and Detroit. MVVA will now take on the challenge of bringing those two separate community visions to life. Even though the parks will be sharing the same name and touch the same body of water, both are inherently different landscapes to Michael Van Valkenburgh.   “The two assignments have quite different challenges about them, more contextual differences,” he said. “In some fundamental ways, they mirror each other, but topographically, they’re totally different. LaSalle is twice the size and literally grades right into Lake Erie, while the Detroit side is perched up with a sea wall. The aspirations are similar, but we’ll have to input quite different interventions on each site.” The UB Regional Institute released a comprehensive report detailing the community’s expectations for the project, which MVVA will use as a guide during the initial design phase. MVVA will have to consider how to integrate the history of the near-90-year-old parkland, its connection to the Olmsted & Vaux–designed Front Park, as well as its role as a sports and recreational space. One of the biggest challenges, according to Shibley, will be buffering noise from the adjacent I-90 highway that runs north toward Canada, as well as creating better access, points of transition, and more localized design details for the five diverse districts that surround LaSalle. While the end result will likely resemble a signature MVVA-designed parkland complete with terrain changes, innovative playscapes, and stunning vistas, Van Valkenburgh said it will retain its most important charm. “The flatness of LaSalle is very defining,” he said, “and it’s also a little relentless to me. I think we don’t want to lose that flatness because there’s a kind of wonderful, almost magical concept of playing at the edge of a lake. At the same time, we’ll likely want to add some topography the landscape to allow people to get to a higher level over the water to see Buffalo’s famous sunsets.” Renderings for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park in Buffalo have not yet been released, but a conceptual design and physical model will be presented to the public in May 2019.
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Michael Van Valkenburgh transforms Tulsa's riverfront into a fantastical green parkland

The Gathering Place, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s newest public park, is anything but basic. Opened in early September, the 66.5-acre riverside landscape looks more like an ultra-green theme park than a typical urban park with trees thrown in for shade. Designed by landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), the $465 million project was dreamed up by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and backed by over 80 other local corporate and philanthropic donors. It’s located just 2 miles from downtown Tulsa on a formerly flat, scorching site along the Arkansas River. After four years of the first phase of construction, it’s now one of the city’s greatest amenities, providing spots for sport, relaxation, and water play underneath a sprawling tree canopy and atop grassy open lawns. MVVA transformed the topography of the existing site by creating various elevated landscapes and other sunken spaces with access to water. The firm also accentuated the native ecologies of the parkland and introduced wetlands, meadows, streams, and dry areas that inspire different types of interaction with nature. Thick logs for seating, fingerlike tree trunks for gathering, and local stone used for walls and mazes were additionally incorporated to connect the landscape as a whole and link it to the surrounding region. While the park boasts threads of regional bike trails, courts for ball-handling sports, and 21 points of entry and exit, it’s the surprising structural elements of play that make it stand out. MVVA designed a 5-acre adventure playground for kids age two to 12 that features seven thematic spaces: Volcanoville, The Land of the River Giants, Royal Tower, Fairy Land Forest, The Ramble, Spiral Connector, and Mist Mountain. According to the architects, these play areas are “boldly expressive and richly programmed,” with normal playground elements such as towers, suspension bridges, and slides, but also fantastic designs like climbable, large-scale animals, flowers, and fruit. Many of the play accessories are clad in steel as well as timber imported from the Alps. Accessibility is a key component of The Gathering Place. MVVA describes the guiding vision of the park to be a democratic space where all Tulsans can come together and experience an array of physically challenging and leisurely activities. Children in wheelchairs can easily access the playscapes through elongated ramps on all of the structures, like the giant, wood-slatted elephant with a truncated slide. The park also includes a pond and boathouse where families can check out kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats. A coffee and ice cream cafe, as well as a dining patio and other picnic areas are situated in the northern part of the parkland near the play spaces to encourage extended stay. Toward the park’s south side, MVVA designed the Sky Garden and Four Season Garden, as well as Swing Hill, situated on the highest point of The Gathering Place with prime views of downtown Tulsa. At the farthest end of the park, visitors can enjoy courts for basketball, volleyball, street hockey, and soccer, or ride over to the skateboard and bike park, which offers courses for all ages and levels. A 50,000-square-foot children’s science museum will also be constructed in this area, coming late summer 2020. Phases 2 and 3 of construction, beginning next spring, will bring the park to a total of 100 acres.
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Major investment coming to Detroit and Buffalo's waterfront park projects

As Detroit and Buffalo get set to take on two transformative park projects along their respective waterfronts, both cities have been generously backed by a philanthropic organization aiming to enhance green space and bolster community engagement. Today, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announced its pledge to invest over $1.2 billion in the cities by 2035 in honor of its founder, the Buffalo Bills’ late owner, and his centennial birthday. The Foundation is making a sizable donation to Western New York and Southeast Michigan—the two areas Wilson loved most—by committing a combined $200 million for upgraded parks and 250 miles of trails in the regions. A large chunk of that change will go directly to revitalizing LaSalle Park in Buffalo and West Riverfront Park in Detroit. With a design already envisioned by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and David Adjaye, the latter parkland will give Michiganites long-desired, tangible access to the Detroit River. Though the 77-acre LaSalle Park has stretched across Lake Erie’s edge since the 1930s, it’s massive potential for further beautification and elevated programming could increase the quality of life for Buffalo residents and beyond. Dave Enger, president of the Foundation, stressed that community involvement is the key to taking on these monumental landscape goals. “Foundations don’t build parks, communities do,” he said. “Our vision is really to support these wonderful projects and the people that have the vision.” The design process is well underway for West Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit. Situated atop a former industrial piece of land, the 22-acre parkland will be a year-round destination for fishing, skating or swimming, sports, entertainment, and family gatherings. MVVA’s proposal was chosen over 80 other submissions in an international design competition to reimagine the park, which was transferred from private ownership to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy in 2014. Since their master plan was selected earlier this spring, MVVA has worked alongside the Conservancy and the Detroit Mayor’s office to garner feedback from locals and find out their personal ambitions for the park. The firm’s principal, Michael Van Valkenburgh, said his team especially loved talking to people aged 60 and older about their childhoods in Detroit—the places they loved and why. For many, the secluded Belle Isle was the only locale they could go to enjoy green space and the river at the same time. But that’s about to change thanks to these new ideas for downtown. “Not every place in Detroit has what New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park offers—a way to touch the water and put your toes in,” said Van Valkenburgh. “Because Detroit is so vast horizontally, we knew needed to add shock and awe to the design to get Detroiters who were far away to come to the water. Michiganders feel defined by and proud that the state is surrounded on three sides by the Great Lakes. We thought giving access to the water, through this cove and beach creation, would be a big draw.” A construction start date hasn’t yet been announced for West Riverfront Park, but officials estimate it will be complete by 2022. Van Valkenburgh is sure the master plan will go through many design iterations before ground is broken and he’s excited about more community input. “I’ve been going to public meetings since 1990,” he said. “These have been the most uplifting public meetings I’ve ever been a part of. People come with a real sense that this park is going to be a big lift for the city. They really want it.” At the other end of Lake Erie is LaSalle Park in Buffalo. Though it’s a long-loved and well-utilized community treasure, city stakeholders agree that it could use significant improvements. In 1998, the city conducted a planning review to overhaul the expansive parkland and identify priorities for a new design and upgraded programming. That vision was never realized until the Regional Institute at the University of Buffalo began researching its history and surveying people through a project called Imagine LaSalle. A focus group even spent this summer exploring the park and visiting other famous green spaces in Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York for inspiration. “The feedback has been tremendous so far,” said Brendan Mehaffey, executive director for the city’s Office of Strategic Planning. “Part of the mayoral administration’s core values is inclusion so we’ve talked to people from all backgrounds including low-income individuals, young professionals, business owners, and more.” Community engagement is at the heart of both efforts in Buffalo and Detroit. Much like Imagine LaSalle, MVVA also transported a busload of teenagers to visit their Maggie Daley Park in Chicago, and other groups went to New York and Philadelphia. Mehaffey sees the connection between the two waterfront park projects, and the two cities in general, as vital to their respective successes. “The Detroit team is much further into the design process than we are, so we’re delving into their research to try and discover best practices for building our own LaSalle Park,” he said. “I think that commonality between us is part of what the Wilson Foundation’s statement is going to make to the country.” Enger also believes the two cities are inextricably important to one another—that’s why his organization has zeroed in on their combined futures. He emphasized that spurring economic development through green space is a key way to democratize the municipalities on a greater level. “Where else in the United States are you going to find world-class parks in post-industrial cities that overlook international border crossings and feature some of the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets?" he said. "We think the total leverage of this project will be far greater than what our investment will bring.”
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New renderings revealed for western expansion of Hudson Yards park

Finally, we have a visual of what the rest of the rail yards at New York City's Hudson Yards will become. CityRealty reported that new renderings have been revealed of the expansion of the 17-million-square-foot megaproject, detailing how the development will take over the entirety of the Amtrak railyard. Phase two of construction on Hudson Yards’ intertwining parkland will add winding stone paths, a lush open lawn, food kiosks, and a bright children’s playground overlooking the Hudson River next to the High Line. Manhattan-based landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz (NBWLA)—which also designed the currently-under-construction Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards—will bring more, much-needed green space to the West Side enclave that’s recently gotten flack for its record-breaking price tag The expansion also includes the final build-out of Michael Van Valkenburgh (MVVA)’s Hudson Boulevard Park that runs directly through the site from 33rd to 36th Streets. Once complete, the extension will bring it up to 39th Street. MVVA finished the first phase of the elongated greenway in 2015, which included the MTA’s 7 train extension in what’s known as Eastern Yards. Together with the boulevard and far West Side parkland, the long-awaited landscape at Hudson Yards will cover a total of 12 acres. NBWLA’s renderings show that the park will sit on the same level as the adjacent High Line, meaning the team will likely use the same engineering to construct a ventilation cover for the rail yard below and a deck to support the landscape. Officials say groundbreaking on the second phase of parkland at Hudson Yards will begin in late 2020 and is slated to open in winter 2023. Once complete, Hudson Yards Development Corporation, which is building out the plan, will transfer care of the parkland over to the city’s parks and transportation departments.
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Pier 3 at Brooklyn Bridge Park is now open, making the parkland 90% complete

Another five acres of permanent green space was added to New York City yesterday with the opening of Pier 3 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Now 90 percent complete, the beloved, 85-acre waterfront parkland designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates is almost finished after nearly 20 years in the making. The project is the final pier of the formerly industrial site to be turned into green space and features a rolling landscape of shrubs and over 500 trees. It also includes one of the largest open spaces in the entire park, a great lawn reminiscent of the seminal one found within Central Park in Manhattan. Laid out at the northern edge of the pier is an exploratory labyrinth garden with hedges of varying sizes. It houses interactive elements like mirrored games, a walk-in kaleidoscope, a conference tube, and unique stone seating by German industrial designer Gunter Beltzig. The design was inspired by the community’s need for a more expansive hangout space within Brooklyn Bridge Park. While meandering walkways provide unmatched views of Manhattan and the other piers have settings for recreational activities, there was not a dedicated area for relaxation until now. “The center of Brooklyn Bridge Park needs an embracing green space," said landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh in a statement, “and with Pier 3 we finally have it. The bowl-like lawn provides a serene interior that I think will draw people in, acting as a complementary counterbalance to the dynamics of river and city.” Since the design for Brooklyn Bridge Park was first revealed in 2005, the 1.3 mile-long parkland has been one of the city’s best examples of land reclamation. The narrow site along the East River had been out of operation since 1983 when the rise of container shipping replaced the need for the bulk cargo shipping and storage complexes that once lined the shoreline. Under Mayor Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki, the city and state signed a joint agreement in 2002 to begin the design and development of the Park. Construction began in 2008 with reclaimed soil from the World Trade Center site. The remaining sections of the park include the recently announced Squibb Park Pool, Brooklyn Bridge Plaza, and the Pier 2 Uplands, which will add 3.4 acres to the park and is slated to begin construction this September.  
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Long-awaited museum beneath St. Louis's Gateway Arch opens to the public

The intensive revamp of the landscape and museum under the St. Louis Gateway Arch is finally complete and open to the public, capping an eight-year process just in time for the July 4 holiday. Lack of accessibility and awareness have historically been major issues in attracting visitors to the museum. The museum sits at the base of Eero Saarinen’s soaring gateway to the American west, which was originally envisioned as both a tribute to westward expansion and as a way to clear low-income waterfront property. Gullivar Shepard, Principal of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), which has been handling the redesign of the landscape beneath the arch since 2010, said: “Eighty percent of visitors don’t even know there’s a museum underneath the arch.” That’s changed radically since the CityArchRiver Foundation (now the Gateway Arch Park Foundation) kicked off a competition in 2010 to re-envision the campus while respecting Saarinen’s and the original landscape architect Dan Kiley's vision for the 91-acre park. The completed museum now takes center stage beneath the arch and acts as a link between the Old Courthouse and the recently covered Interstate 44 to the west, and the Mississippi River to the east. The Museum at the Gateway Arch uses its sunken, circular form to carve out wide views of the St. Louis skyline without impacting sightlines towards the Arch. That was a deliberate choice on the behalf of New York’s Cooper Robertson and James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), who, with the St. Louis-based Trivers Associates, renovated and uncovered the existing Saarinen-designed museum. “The new West Entry and Museum expansion [are] discretely incised into the landscape,” said James Carpenter, Founder and Principal of JCDA. “This welcoming gesture is announced by an arc of glass laid flat on the ground, reflecting the image of the sky above, while the Arch itself scribes an arc against the sky beyond.” The ribbed glass canopy above the museum’s entrance serves to reduce the outside natural light and ease visitors into the subterranean museum, which has been programmatically transformed. The museum, formerly the Museum of Westward Expansion, will now focus more on the design and construction of the Gateway Arch itself and present more diverse narratives in American history. Inside, the museum’s layout follows the natural contours of the surrounding landscape. The lighting has been designed to keep a consistent level of brightness as visitors move from the glass entrance to the underground galleries. The wraparound paths have been laid out to funnel traffic to the west-facing entry, as visitors coming from either side converge at the entrance and are presented with framed views of the Arch and courthouse. A time-lapse video of the museum's construction, courtesy of EarthCam.
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Museum at St. Louis' Gateway Arch to open this July

A spiffy revamp of the park and buildings surrounding Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch in St. Louis is slated for completion this summer. Along with a new landscape by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) that sensitively dialogues with the Dan Kiley original, the symbolic demarcation of the west will be complemented by a revamped Museum of Westward Expansion, now known as the Museum of the Gateway Arch. The building, which sits directly beneath the Arch, was originally designed by Saarinen and is being redone by New York's Cooper Robertson and James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA) with Trivers Associates, which is based in St. Louis. The team added 45,500 square feet to the museum's west side, connecting a new entrance (pictured above) to the main programming in the 113,000-square-foot Saarinen-designed museum. In deference to the site—which is both a national landmark and national park—much of the new construction sits underground. The architects collaborated with MVVA on 2010's CityArchRiver, a competition to master-plan and tweak Kiley and Saarinen's 91-acre landscape and structures for better public access and connectivity with downtown St. Louis. In conjunction with the renovation, the Museum of Westward Expansion is being rebranded as the Museum at the Gateway Arch, a switch that removes the jingoistic emphasis on the colonization of indigenous land, but preserves its ties to the site. The re-christened building will open July 3, 2018. In the meantime, take a gander at this neat timelapse construction video:
 
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Johnston Marklee's Menil Drawing Institute to open this November

After a lengthy build-out, Houston's Menil Drawing Institute will open to the public this fall. As its name suggests, the Institute, a project the Menil Foundation initiated a decade ago, will showcase the drawings of master artists from all over the world. Los Angeles's Johnston Marklee designed the Drawing Institute's home, while the landscape architects at New York and Cambridge, Massachusetts–based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates will knit the building together with the existing structures that comprise the Menil Collection. When it opens to the public on November 3, the Menil Drawing Institute will showcase the work of Jasper Johns, the American artist best known for his interpretations of the stars and stripes. The retrospective, entitled The Condition of Being Here: Drawings by Jasper Johns, will be the first exhibition hosted in the 30,000-square-foot building. The Menil stewards one of the largest collections of Johns's drawings in existence, so the exhibition is meant to highlight this portion of the Foundation's wide-ranging collection. Johnston Marklee's $40 million structure—the first freestanding space purpose-built to display, study, and conserve modern and contemporary drawings—will joins four others on the Menil's 30-acre home. The main building, designed by Renzo Piano in 1987, is undergoing a concurrent renovation. That space will reopen to the public in early fall. Construction or not, the Menil Collection is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free at all times. More information on the Menil Drawing Institute and other programs can be found here.
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Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, David Adjaye selected to design Detroit's West Riverfront Park

Beating out a pool of over 80 international design teams, a team with Brooklyn-based landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) and Sir David Adjaye have been chosen to transform the 22-acre West Riverfront Park in downtown Detroit. While the nonprofit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy has stressed that they were choosing a team, not a design, MVVA’s presented plan for the park would substantially change the waterfront. While the final four competitors for the park presented big names in landscape architecture, including James Corner Field Operations, Hood Design Studio and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, the diverse programming proposed by MVVA ultimately won out. The $50-million redevelopment will present all-ages options throughout the shore, including the carving out of a beach inside of a secluded cove. Now that the design team has been chosen, the MVVA-led team and Detroit RiverFront Conservancy will solicit input from the community to nail down the final design details. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy will also fundraise to reach the rest of the $50 million goal in the meantime, meaning the construction and completion date for the project are uncertain at the time of writing. MVVA’s design for the riverfront park mixes active uses with more passive recreational areas and mingles the park’s natural systems with the city grid, similar to firm’s approach at Brooklyn Bridge Park. On the western side of the park, there will be a pool house and built up “performance hill,” complete with a clamshell-shaped amphitheater that will sit on a pier in the river. The circular “Sport House” will go up to the east, which from the renderings looks like it will float above a basketball court and feature a green roof on top. Moving east, a tall, artificial bluff will surround the park house and picnic grove. Perhaps the most prominent feature in the proposal is the aforementioned beach at the park’s center, which will be hemmed in by a stone jetty to the west and a fishing pier to the east, likely to prevent erosion. MVVA’s renderings show kayakers and beach-goers relaxing in the summer and skating on the frozen river in the winter, part of the Conservancy's vision for an all-year-round park. Capping off the eastern edge of the park is the enormous “Great Lakes Play Garden” for children, and “Evergreen Isle.” The stone island sits parallel to the playground in the river and is designed to break up ice floes and anchor ecological improvements by creating a shallow, biologically diverse channel. The shore of the entire park will be bounded by the Detroit Riverwalk. “It was love at first sight when I saw the Detroit River,” said Michael Van Valkenburgh in a press release. “I immediately recognized that this new park could draw the city to the water’s edge.” West Riverfront Park is bounded by Rosa Parks Boulevard to the west and Eighth Street to the east, a stretch that had been in private hands for nearly 100 years before the Conservancy purchased it in 2014. A $345,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s “Livable Communities” focus area financed the West Riverfront Park Design Competition. MVVA’s team for the project, besides David Adjaye, will also include Utile and Mobility in Chain, and local partners LimnoTech (Ann Arbor), PEA (Detroit) and NTH Consultants (Northville).