Posts tagged with "Weiss/Manfredi":

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Hancock Park may become Los Angeles’s first true urban microcosm

“Tip the world over on its side,” Frank Lloyd Wright once quipped, “and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” As a fresh L.A. transplant in the early 1920s, Wright clearly had trouble finding his bearings, yet nearly a century on, his testimony remains remarkably apt: To the uninitiated, the “fabric” of Los Angeles’s cityscape can feel improvisatory, a game board consisting of extravagantly mismatched pieces. The very same observation can easily be applied to Hancock Park, which counts geological excavations, fiberglass mammoths, contemporary art, and, soon, Hollywood cinema among its many oddities and enticements. No fewer than three cultural institutions are currently situated on the park’s 34 acres, but they are an atomized bunch, existing together in relative isolation. However, plans are afoot that promise to join together these disparate pieces into a museological collection unparalleled in the western United States. The prime mover is unquestionably the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which became Hancock Park’s first cultural institution when it opened in 1965. William Pereira’s palatial yet restrained campus—originally a composition of three buildings (the Ahmanson Building, the Bing Center, and the Lytton Gallery) surrounded by reflecting pools—attempted to cast Los Angeles in the role of art-world magnet even as critics placed it at the margins. As the city expanded its influence in this arena, so, too, did LACMA expand within Hancock Park, with the museum adding buildings by Bruce Goff, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, and Renzo Piano. More recently, outdoor artworks by Chris Burden, Michael Heizer, and Robert Irwin have signposted the institution’s desire for outward growth at the expense of a defined center. The La Brea Tar Pits, a group of asphalt lakes from which paleontologists have exhumed the fossilized remains of Ice Age-era Mammalia for more than a century, occupy 13 acres of the park’s eastern half. In 1967, the sculptor Howard Ball created a fiberglass family of woolly mammoths along Lake Pit, the largest tar pit on the property, that dramatically raised the unusual site’s profile. A decade later, the George C. Page Museum, a quietly monumental museum and paleontological research facility designed by Willis Fagan and Frank Thornton to study and display the fossils, took up residence at the northeastern corner of the pits—as far from the LACMA campus as physically possible. For nearly half a century, LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits seemed entirely indifferent to one another, even as they remained cheek by jowl. Both offer as many outdoor attractions as they do interior exhibitions, which has the potential to blur user groups, if not visitor experiences. But the parkland stretching between the two campuses has never done much to smooth the jarring transition from art to paleontology. This strained dynamic was brought into question in 2014, when construction began on the 300,000-square-foot Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at Hancock Park’s southwestern corner. Operated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the museum plans to split its programming between two buildings: the former May Company Building, a department store designed in a streamlined moderne style by Albert C. Martin in 1939 (and once briefly owned by LACMA), and the Sphere, a striking high-tech belvedere designed by Renzo Piano and featuring a 1,000-seat theater. When it opens this December, the complex will be America’s largest dedicated to the art and science of filmmaking, a craft that turned the orange groves of Los Angeles into a city of global recognition. With this third player in the mix, LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits independently saw opportunities to reinvent themselves and, perhaps, finally unify Hancock Park and its aggregate cultural and recreational offerings. In August 2019, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC), which manages the La Brea Tar Pits, announced it had selected three firms to develop master plans that would take stock of the site’s invaluable contents while updating its outdated visitor experience. A few months later, after staging a public exhibit of the projects, NHMLAC elected to push ahead with multidisciplinary firm WEISS/MANFREDI’s master plan. The design calls for the preservation of the site’s most locally beloved elements, including Lake Pit and the original Page Museum, and ties them together with a 3,200-foot-long looping pedestrian path. Calling the Page “introverted,” architect Michael Manfredi summarized the scheme’s intention to pull back the curtain on the museum’s ongoing paleontological research: “Because Hancock Park is a public space, and not a nine-to-five destination, our master plan hopes to stretch the hours of engagement by revealing the hidden life of the museum to the public without [visitors] ever stepping inside; to make the science more visible, and make [the displays] a more active element of the park rather than mere inert objects.” Manfredi conceded that the scheme is still in development, and his team expects to incorporate more public input in the next design rounds; so far, the joint effort has collected more than 2,100 survey responses from the local community. Meanwhile, LACMA’s own redevelopment plan has been met repeatedly with public and critical scorn. Since assuming the museum’s directorship in 2006, Michael Govan has been emphatic about his desire to make his mark with a grand new building. In 2013, he unveiled plans to replace Pereira’s midcentury pavilions and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer’s mid-1980s Art of the Americas building with a tabletop design spanning Wilshire Boulevard by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. Only Piano’s 2008 Broad Contemporary Art Museum and 2010 Resnick Pavilion—a campus in themselves—would be spared. Though there have been a handful of public meetings following each successive plan (the project has undergone drastic revisions since first being unveiled), local groups contend they have been purposefully left out of the decision-making process by the parties in charge—namely LACMA, Zumthor’s office, and the county’s Board of Supervisors. Among the most prominent of these is the nonprofit Save LACMA, whose mission statement touts the “enormous pool of goodwill, sentiment and investment” it has accrued in its drive to protect the museum’s beleaguered buildings. Like its ally the Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA, Save LACMA has decried recent cost estimates putting Govan and Zumthor’s project at $750 million, with $125 million coming from the County of Los Angeles. Rubbing salt in the wound, another report alleged that the new LACMA would contain 10,000 square feet less exhibition space than did its predecessor. Summing up the brouhaha in the Los Angeles Times, art critic Christopher Knight (who just won a Pulitzer for his take on the LACMA controversy) needled the expansion and dubbed it the “Incredible Shrinking Museum.” LACMA fanned the critical flames when, in early April, after stay-at-home orders had been issued to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, it began dismantling the Bing Center. Later that month, as if capitalizing on the controversy, the Citizens’ Brigade unveiled alternative proposals to the Zumthor design, which varied in tone (though nearly all were wistful) and feasibility (with more than one barely-there provocation). None were as audacious as Zumthor’s parti, which is nonetheless poised to improve on LACMA’s current campus. As grand as the Pereira buildings may have been in their day, they formed a visual barrier across Hancock Park’s southern perimeter and created an inelegant walking path along the campus’s expanding east-west axis. From the west, visitors had to scale the Ahmanson Building’s pompously wide stairs before stumbling onto the main plaza, later blocked from Wilshire with the addition of the Arts of the Americas building. Zumthor’s decision to lift all the exhibition spaces and other museum functions into the air (and over Wilshire) grants visitors unfettered access to the central axis of the park. At LACMA in February, Govan quipped that visitors to the future Hancock Park will be able to go from “movies to mammoths” without paying an admission fee. It’s striking that this consequence of Zumthor’s planning has survived all the project’s alterations; clearly, critic Christopher Hawthorne was correct in saying, all the way back in 2013, that the design was less aloof than his peers made it out to be. A composite site plan of all three ongoing projects reveals a Hancock Park that bears little resemblance to its present self: A flock of Piano-designed structures congregates in its western half, absorbed in their own symmetries; Zumthor’s spaceshiplike LACMA retreats from the park’s center and straddles Wilshire Boulevard to the south, touching down on a one-acre park (currently a parking lot owned by the museum); and, while still subject to change, the pedestrian loop winding through WEISS/MANFREDI’s La Brea Tar Pits master plan echoes LACMA’s curves, as if the two entities were at last ready to tango after decades of bumping elbows. This gradual movement toward greater cohesion tracks with two other L.A. projects currently in the works. The first is the addition of seven new stations to the Metro’s D Line along Wilshire Boulevard, representing a major improvement to the city’s underdeveloped public transportation infrastructure. The Wilshire/Fairfax station, sited directly across the street from Hancock Park, is slated to be completed in 2023, three years after the Academy Museum and one year before LACMA (though a construction timeline for the La Brea Tar Pits master plan is still in the works, one may expect that it will attempt to align with its neighboring developments). According to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, LACMA has indicated it would finance a second station entrance on its campus, which would connect the block to the city at large more seamlessly than ever before. Yet even Metro has felt the pressure to accelerate its construction timeline in response to a second, even larger citywide goal: the 2028 Summer Olympics, the third time in the event’s modern history that the games will be held in Los Angeles. As if impelled to replicate the success of the previous iteration in 1984—considered the only profitable games in modern Olympic history—Los Angeles is currently abuzz with construction on large-scale developments, including the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (see page 30), SoFi Stadium, and the renovation of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Against this backdrop, the transformation of Hancock Park into a single, coherent block of art, film, and prehistory in time for the Olympics would be a major boon for the city’s title as a cultural capital. (Such a consolidation might even compel Angelenos to finally call the park by its official name, which it shares with a well-heeled residential cluster to its east.) At the time of this writing, Hancock Park is not much to look at. Some elements are dulled by years of neglect, others too shiny for lack of occupation, and others still scarred by the recent violence of demolition. Yet a little patience will likely yield an outsize reward: a true microcosm of a city possibly too large in size and cultural importance to take in by any other means.
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WEISS/MANFREDI win competition to master plan the La Brea Tar Pits

Between Dorte Mandrup, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and WEISS/MANFREDI, it was anyone's guess who would win the commission between the three firms to redesign the 13-acre site of La Brea Tar Pits back in August. It was revealed by Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC), on December 11 that WEISS/MANFREDI has been selected to lead the master planning team. “We are excited to move forward with Marion [Weiss], Michael [Manfredi], and their remarkable team," said Bettison-Varga in a press release, "as we work toward a more integrated experience of the museum and the landscape in Hancock Park while increasing community access, preserving the site’s iconic features and developing a more sustainable infrastructure for the next 50 years." Prior to selecting a winner, NHMLAC invited public feedback by displaying text and imagery of the three proposals in the George C. Page Museum, a museum built on the site in 1977 to exhibit the fossils discovered underneath the grounds. Though it was reportedly difficult for the selection team to choose between the three firms after reviewing over 2,100 survey responses, WEISS/MANFREDI's proposal stood out for its ability to "capture the imaginations of a broad cross-section of audiences," according to Bettison-Varga. Their master plan, titled "La Brea Loops and Lenses," proposes the inclusion of a 3,281-foot-long pedestrian walkway framing Lake Pitt, a tar pit featuring a dramatic depiction of Ice Age-mammoths slipping into its murky depths, as well as several of the site's other impressive natural features. In a press release, WEISS/MANFREDI explained that "The intertwining loops link all the existing site components, enhancing spaces for community and scientific research. The lenses, as framed views throughout the park and museum, reveal the La Brea collection to visitors, bringing the museum to the park, and the park into the public imagination.” In addition, the original museum building will stay on the site and its floor space will be significantly increased by a partially-underground gallery space and an adjacent wing facing Sixth Street to the North. Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles and jury member for the selection committee, expressed that "WEISS/MANFREDI and its collaborators stood out with a concept for the site that is both full of fresh thinking and thoughtfully responsive to [the site's] layered existing conditions." Over the next few years, NHMLAC and WEISS/MANFREDI will collaborate on public engagement, master planning, design and construction of the redevelopment of the site.
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Hunter’s Point South Park completes a Queens coastline years in the making

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 The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

The transformation of Hunter’s Point South in two phases from a contaminated strip of coast in Long Island City, Queens, to an ecologically sensitive 11-acre park was 11 years in the making. Stretching along the East River south of Gantry Plaza State Park and Steven Holl’s Hunter’s Point Community Library (see page 16), Hunter’s Point South Park sits on a conveniently sited piece of land that was neglected for decades before the park opened at the end of last year.

The park was designed by Thomas Balsley Associates (TBA; the firm became SWA/Balsley in 2016) and WEISS/MANFREDI to be a sustainable storm buffer and public green space for the new Hunter’s Point South development, a 5,000-unit housing complex on the southern shore of Long Island City.

The idea for Hunter’s Point South Park had been percolating long before plans for it officially started coming together in 2007. Thomas Balsley told AN that back in 1990, when Gantry Plaza State Park was being planned, he envisioned a whole-coast master plan that would stretch from Anable Basin in Long Island City (the site of Amazon’s failed HQ2 bid) all the way down to Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (now home to a wastewater treatment plant known for its iconic “biodigester” eggs). To Balsley, Gantry Plaza State Park was supposed to be the start of a line of parks running down the Queens–Brooklyn shore. Design on Hunter’s Point South Park began in 2009, and Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi’s early sketches are remarkably close to what would be built nine years later.

The linear park provides views of the Manhattan skyline and has an amphitheater-like arrangement that also blocks noise from the busy Queens streets to the east. Because of tight siting requirements, budget constraints, and the harsh microclimate that the park has to endure, SWA/Balsley filled the site with resilient native salt-marsh plants. Besides acting as a natural flood buffer, the plants don’t require active irrigation, meaning none was built into the site. The plants also filter and clean the river, a job that Balsley likened to “acting as the park’s liver.”

Lighting

Arup was also responsible for specifying the park’s lighting fixtures. Most of the fixtures used were New York City Department of Transportation/Parks Department–standard pedestrian- and street-lighting poles and Holophane helm fixtures. Linear lighting by Wagner was used to illuminate the benches and overlook handrails and as uplighting. Step lights by Bega were integrated into the wooden furnishings and concrete walls. The nonstandard lighting features were all intended to be as minimal and unobtrusive as possible, so as not to detract from the landscape and views.

Structures

WEISS/MANFREDI was responsible for designing structures for both phases of the park, with Galvin Brothers serving as the general contractors. In Phase 1, that meant the 13,000-square-foot bent-steel pavilion that houses Parks Department offices, restrooms, and a COFFEED cafe at LIC Landing, the park’s ferry dock. Fabrication of the structure and canopies was done by Powell Steel Corporation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which permanently closed in 2013. Stainless steel cladding came from Westfield Sheet Metal Works in Kenilworth, New Jersey.

For Phase 2, the towering steel overlook structure (below) was fabricated by Newport Industrial Fabrication in Newport, Maine, while the freestanding precast panel walls were fabricated by Bétons Préfabriqués du Lac (BPDL) in Alma, Quebec.

Furniture

The custom wood–slat lounge chairs and banquette seats and custom precast concrete benches were designed in-house by SWA/Balsley and WEISS/MANFREDI, with galvanized steel framing and Kebony USA–provided Kebonized southern yellow pine. Steel benches with aluminum seat dividers were provided by Landscape Forms and manufactured in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with raw materials mined from within 500 miles of the facility to reduce environmental impact.

Transportation

The park is easily accessible despite its coastal locale. It can be reached via the 7 train’s Vernon Boulevard–Jackson Avenue station; by the Q103 bus via the Vernon Boulevard/49 Avenue stop; by the Long Island Rail Road, which stops at 49-13 Vernon Boulevard; by numerous street-level bike paths; by car; and via the Hunter’s Point South ferry landing.

Vegetation

Plant species were selected for their hardiness and nativity and include juniper trees and a variety of shrubs and grasses for the park’s bioswales. Besides cutting down on maintenance costs, the flora used by SWA/Balsley can thrive on the edge of a briny river, and hosts native fauna.  Plants were sourced from nurseries in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Infrastructure

Arup, which was responsible for the structural, civil, and bridge engineering of both phases, oversaw the installation of 7,500 feet of sanitary and storm sewers and 3,700 feet of water main.

Infill and hardscaping

Prior to the park’s construction, the site had been used in the 19th and 20th centuries as a dumping ground for soil excavated from rail-line construction sites around the city, and many portions of the site had since grown wild. To build out and sculpt the shoreline, existing infill was repurposed and moved to the water’s edge. Around the shore, board-formed and precast concrete walls were used to create the harder edges, while Jet Mist and Stony Creek granites mined from Stony Creek, Connecticut, were used for the riprap (below) and to fill in steel gabions.

Art

Because this was a city project, the NYCEDC was tasked with appointing an artistic consultant. After a search, Suzanne Randolph Fine Arts was chosen, which in turn picked Nobuho Nagasawa to create a site-specific installation. Seven photoluminescent sculptures resembling different phases of the moon were installed in 2017 in the winding, peninsula-like amphitheater forming a piece titled Luminescence. Each “moon” in the series was cast from Hydrocal, a mixture of plaster and portland cement.

Funding and Labor

In 2009, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) selected the project’s developer, TF Cornerstone, and TBA, which brought on WEISS/MANFREDI as collaborators. The project was split into two phases from the beginning. Phase 1 broke ground in January 2011 and opened in August 2013, after the NYCEDC spent $66 million for the 5.5-acre park and an accompanying 3,400 feet of linear roadway. Phase 2, which began construction in November 2015, opened at the end of June 2018, at a cost of $99 million. This 5.5-acre section, which came with another 3,500 linear feet of new roadways, was funded through the NYCEDC as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York plan, as the park fulfilled the green space requirement of the adjoining housing development and is intended to mitigate flood damage there in the event of a storm surge.

The NYCEDC shepherded the project through two mayoral administrations and hired the LiRo Group to act as construction manager for the build-out, which then subcontracted the actual construction to the Great Neck, Long Island–based Galvin Brothers. The standard design-bid-build process was used for both sections. Park maintenance is handled by the NYC Parks Department.

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Dorte Mandrup, DS+R, and WEISS/MANFREDI unveil ideas for La Brea Tar Pits revamp

Dorte Mandrup, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and WEISS/MANFREDI have revealed their concepts as finalists in the effort to reimagine the historic La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Located within 12 acres of Hancock Park in the city’s Miracle Mile district, the world-famous site contains the only active urban paleontological research facility in the world but it hasn’t been updated since it opened in 1977. Spearheaded by the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County and the County of Los Angeles, the project aims to create a more integrated experience between the surrounding landscape and the George C. Page Museum, a 57,000-square-foot structure with sloping, grass-covered walls. Due to the building’s shape and underground siting—it was designed to take up as little space as possible—it’s proven difficult to expand and make room for more storage, research, education facilities, and exhibitions. The design teams have been tasked with improving all of these elements within the built portion of the site, while also refining access to the contemporary gardens, concessions building, and the observation structure that looks over the active dig site. All three firms partnered with renowned landscape, engineering, and ecology specialists to present the following holistic visions:  Dorte Mandrup With Matha Schwartz Partners, Arup, Gruen Associates, and Kontrapunkt According to the Copenhagen-based studio, the museum park should be designed in a way that reflects its status as a living laboratory. “Our proposal interweaves the park and museum, so the moment you step inside the park you become immersed into the story of the Tar Pits,” said Dorte Mandrup-Poulsen, founder and creative director of Dorte Mandrup in a press release. “A visit here should be a journey of curiosity, where senses and imagination are instantly awakened. Our hope is that this will bring visitors much closer to the world of natural science, and in turn heighten their understanding of the past, present, and future of our planet.” The museum itself will remain in its existing footprint, but a square building, or “geometric halo,” standing on stilts will float above the main portion, calling attention to itself via a digital Pleistocene mural on its glass walls. A series of boardwalks will connect all activities in the park while also leading visitors to the new, open foyer inside the museum which will, with ample daylight highlighting the floor and ceiling cutouts, tease the exhibitions above and below. The building will feature a new public roof garden and a "Tar Bar" overlooking the grounds.  Diller Scofidio + Renfro With Hood Design Studio, Nabih Yousef Associates, Rana Creek, Arup, and Schwartz/Silver Architects DS+R’s masterplan seeks to make Hancock Park a catalyst for growth in the Miracle Mile community by creating a systematic grid of pathways that inspire people to visit the major cultural locations in the area. “A revitalized Hancock Park is conceived to be the connective tissue between existing and new institutions, public spaces, and urban infrastructure,” said Diller Scofidio + Renfro in a statement. “We have taken a ‘light touch’ approach for the next evolution of the Page Museum, infilling underutilized spaces and reconfiguring what is already there to create a more dynamic and efficient hybrid structure that is both building and landscape." The New York-based design team will expand the museum’s current footprint and create a new forecourt at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Curson Avene. By adding a spiraling landscape of berms around the structure, exterior views of the new, centralized archive block are altered. DS+R designed a floating glass cube that sinks below the ground and is visible from the lobby. The firm has also proposed a mobile “Dig Rig” that can be moved throughout the park to access new dig sites and enhance accessibility.  WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism With Mark Dion, Dr. Carole Gee, Michael Bierut, Karin Fong, Michael Steiner, ASLA, and Robert Perry, ASLA WEISS/MANFREDI’s proposal, titled “La Brea Loops and Lenses,” provides a new path for visitors to experience all activities within Hancock Park and around the La Brea Tar Pits as one long, triple Mobius loop. This includes a 3,281-foot-long pedestrian walkway across Lake Pitt that would feature terraced seating areas for lakeside viewing. “The intertwining loops link all the existing site components, enhancing spaces for community and scientific research,” said founders and principals Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi in a press release. “The lenses, as framed views throughout the park and museum, reveal the La Brea collection to visitors, bringing the museum to the park, and the park into the public imagination.” The new museum would sit on two interconnected diamond-shaped plots across from a central lawn space. One would house a stilted canopy structure covering a below-ground Pleistocene Garden and another, situated on the museum’s existing footprint, would open up to the plaza with a glass-clad events space and spiraling frieze. The museum’s lobby would sit partially-underground and in between these main spaces, while an exhibition pit will be visible from the panoramic labs that encircle it.  All three designs for the La Brea Tar Pits will be on display at the George C. Page Museum through September 15. Locals can provide feedback on the materials, models, and drawings on view, or visit TarPits.org to comment. After reviewing, a jury will choose a winning design by December. Jury members include Milton Curry, architecture dean at the University of South California; Christopher Hawthorne, L.A.’s chief design officer; Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian; and Barbara Wilkes, founding principal of W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, LLC, among others. 
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Weiss/Manfredi continues to reinvent its approach at all scales

The realities of contemporary architectural production—site, client, and program—often demand that architects incorporate a combination of open space planning, landscape, and infrastructure into their building projects. The reasons are fairly obvious, given the fraught relationship of daily life to the realities of climate change, digitally mediated landscapes, and the amount of time we spend away from home and in our workplaces. It is unfortunate that these conditions most often appear in contemporary architecture as symbols, tacked on to a facade or plaza, hinted at in a green-walled lobby, or worse still, exist only in the project’s marketing images. However, there are a handful of architecture firms that, as far back as the early 1990s, foresaw the looming urban and environmental crises that we face today. They took climate change and the need for environmentally healthy workplaces seriously and considered how architecture might address these demands. One of the firms that recognized the need to rethink architectural approaches is Weiss/Manfredi. Its formulation of design thinking and form making was best described in a 2008 interview with the designers by the late historian Detlef Mertens. “I am fascinated how you teased out commonalities across scales and disciplines,” Mertens said, “and at the same time, used each to rethink the other—landscape to rethink what a building is, infrastructure to rethink what a landscape is, architecture to rethink landscape—and so on.” The firm’s signature design approach and formal architectural response were developed at its inception, when Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi left Mitchell Giurgola to found their own firm in 1989. Yale Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking The unique, elliptical form of Yale University’s Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking is centrally positioned in a courtyard of stepped orthogonal structures. Curved glass walls encourage circulation through and around the center and allow the rest of the university to see and participate in the building’s program. The open studio, conference, and cafe spaces create opportunities for spontaneous discussion and provide a link between public areas and adjacent instructional spaces. Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum The firm’s design synthesis was utilized even more powerfully in its 2007 Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. Its design for an industrial site on the edge of Elliot Bay creates a continuous constructed landscape for art in the form of an uninterrupted Z-shaped "green" platform, and descends 40 feet from the city to the water, capitalizing on skyline views and rising over the existing infrastructure to reconnect the urban core to the waterfront. An exhibition pavilion that provides spaces for art, performances, and educational programming links three new northwest landscapes: a dense temperate evergreen forest, a deciduous forest, and a shoreline garden. The design not only brings sculpture outside the museum walls but also establishes the park itself within the landscape of the city. Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park The firm’s established design aesthetic of merging landscape, infrastructure, and building are no more fully developed than in this new, 11-acre continuous waterfront in Queens designed in tandem with SWA/Balsley. Its design creates places of retreat and invites intimate connections with nature at the water's edge, complementing active recreation spaces. Further, it reestablishes the site's former marshland identity and introduces a resilient, multilayered recreational and cultural destination that brings city dwellers to the park and the park to the waterfront. Museum of the Earth The firm’s approach can already be seen in its 2003 Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York, located on an open promontory sloping down toward Cayuga Lake. Weiss/Manfredi carefully modified the site to merge delicately into the museum’s two glass and steel pavilions through processional ramps and out to the view beyond. The site and plan merge without compromising the building’s powerful glass-and-steel form.
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Three big-name studios shortlisted for La Brea Tar Pits master plan competition

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) announced yesterday that it would be reimagining its 12-acre campus in Hancock Park in Los Angeles, home to the iconic La Brea Tar Pits and George C. Page Museum. To that end, three firms will compete to lead a master planning team that will be responsible for renovating and future-proofing the campus. The NHMLAC first launched the search for a master planner in March of this year, and the three teams have been invited to create conceptual designs for review. The proposals will be unveiled in August of this year and the NHMLAC will take public feedback on each. After internal and public review, the winning team will be announced by the end of the year and will be responsible for leading the master plan team through the public review, planning, and construction phases of the renovation. The shortlisted teams are as follows: Dorte Mandrup is leading one team. While the Copenhagen-based firm's most recently publicized project may be a blockbuster tower in Denmark, the NHMLAC noted in a press release that the firm has worked on five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the past, including several museums and libraries. The Dorte Mandrup team includes the London-based landscape architecture firm Martha Schwartz Partners, design firm Kontrapunkt, L.A.-based executive architects Gruen Associates, and Arup. The WEISS/MANFREDI team was singled out for its experience in designing large landscapes that invite public interaction, from Hunters Point South in Queens, to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, to the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. WEISS/MANFREDI’s collaborators are notably distinct in focus from the other teams: paleobotanist Dr. Carole Gee, graphic designer Michael Bierut, artist Mark Dion, and Karin Fong, renowned storytelling designer and cofounder of Imaginary Forces, were all tapped. Rounding out the three finalists is the team led by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R). DS+R is no stranger to realizing large park projects either, and its Broad Museum project previously won the firm critical accolades in L.A. The DS+R team consists of the California-based landscape studio Rana Creek, and landscape architect, urbanist, and Hood Design Studio founder Walter Hood. Whoever wins will have to balance the preservation of a unique paleontological resource with improving the flow and visitor capacity of the park campus. “La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum are the only facilities of their kind in the world,” said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the NHMLAC, “an active, internationally renowned site of paleontological research in the heart of a great city, and a museum that both supports the scientists’ work and helps interpret it for more than 400,000 visitors a year. We are excited to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just renovate these facilities thoroughly but also to think deeply about how to make them function as well for neighbors and guests over the next 40 years as they have for the last 40—perhaps, even better.”
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Weiss/Manfredi unveils redesign for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi

Weiss/Manfredi is bringing an update to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India. Yesterday, the New York–based firm released initial renderings of its redesign for the 28-acre site along with potential plans to restore the modernist Chancery Building, designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1958. The 61-year-old campus sits in New Delhi’s diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri, a verdant city built in the mid-19th century for wealthy locals and other embassies. Using a long-term masterplan that hinges on security and an extensive, connective landscape, the design team will add new construction to the embassy’s property, including an office building for the ambassador and staff, as well as a support annex featuring space for more offices and a health unit. Five small entry pavilions will also be integrated at the edges of the campus as welcoming points for visitors. Weiss/Manfredi, the award-winning firm led by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, has worked on the masterplan for the embassy since 2014. In collaboration with the State Department, the practice has come up with a design that both fits the functional needs of the U.S. government and honors India’s architectural heritage. According to the architects, the new construction will complement Indian vernacular architecture with materials that are used both locally and nationally, as well as with design motifs that evoke the ancient traditions of the country. For example, the new office building and support annex will be clad in interwoven pre-cast concrete fins featuring white Makrana marble. This design move serves as a nod to the jali (or perforated) screens used in Indian homes. Other common Indian stones such as Golden Teak sandstone, Kota limestone, and Ambaji white marble will also be used throughout the campus. Due to New Delhi’s hot and variable climate, each piece of architecture will feature some type of shading component or cover. The main office structure, which appears to have a slightly curved stone facade facing the chancery, will be topped with a deep, flat canopy roof. On the edge of the campus will be a giant reflecting pool, providing evaporative cooling for the surrounding structures. Garden walls, open green spaces, and shaded seating will be scattered throughout the public areas, while all functional zones will be connected via a tree-lined promenade that will extend to both sides of the campus. Initial construction on the support annex is expected to begin this spring. In total, the project is set to take seven to eight years to complete and will be built in two phases.
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Weiss/Manfredi to revitalize a Florida cultural hub after hurricane devastation

Last year, Hurricane Irma’s devastation wrapped around the state of Florida, causing irreparable damage to structures across every coastal community. The Baker Museum, part of one of Southwest Florida’s youngest yet most-revered cultural institutions, Artis—Naples, suffered so much water intrusion that it’s been closed temporarily since September 6, 2017. Today, Weiss/Manfredi unveiled a new master plan to revitalize the Naples campus, starting with the repair and expansion of the hard-hit Baker Museum. Through a $150 million campaign backed by the Artis—Naples board of directors, the New York–based firm aims to boost resiliency on the site while enhancing the natural beauty of its tropical location. The design will additionally help create a dialogue between the institution’s growing visual and performing arts programs, and bring a cohesive, inviting atmosphere to the 8.5-acre space. “Though Naples is largely considered an elite community,” said Michael Manfredi, co-founder and principal of Weiss/Manfredi, “this project targets not only folks that are sophisticated in the arts, but a whole host of people, especially younger kids, who don’t have the benefit of fantastic educations, and are in adjacent communities that aren’t economically privileged. They’re the ones who are hit hardest by any kind of devastation, whether it’s natural or manmade. There is a strong sense from Artis—Naples of wanting to be part of this larger community.” For the last 18 years, The Baker Museum has housed Artis—Naples’s diverse collection of art in a three-story, 30,000-square-foot facility. An opaque, fortress-like structure, the building featured a glass, dome-shaped conservatory protruding into the west side plaza until the hurricane damaged it beyond repair. To the design team, as well as leadership at Artis—Naples, the museum’s destruction was seen as an opportunity to jump-start plans for a reimagined campus, one that would revamp the formerly dark building by bringing light and life to it, while simultaneously opening up its programs to the public in a new way. “The hurricane forced us to think about what we could do quickly that would bring the museum back online and start to incorporate the institution’s performing arts programs,” said Weiss. “Additionally, the goal of the master plan and the goal of the future Artis—Naples is to communicate that art shouldn’t be experienced behind closed doors, or be shown to the people who can afford to come through those doors. We wanted the transformation to express a more open and welcoming place.” Part of conveying that message includes a 17,000-square-foot expansion of The Baker Museum to the south, complete with three flexible spaces for performing, rehearsing, and receptions. A box within the southern facade will be cut out to reveal event space on the second floor, while a glass wall on the lower level will allow passersby to see activity inside. Atop this end of the elongated structure will be an outdoor sculpture terrace. The stone cladding itself will be made much more resilient and a scalloped metal design will be constructed along the western exterior wall to act as a rain screen. Kathleen van Bergen, CEO and President of Artis—Naples, said Weiss/Manfredi’s original master plan for the site was unanimously chosen back in August 2017, a month before Hurricane Irma came to shore. Though The Baker Museum didn’t need desperate help at the time, the goal was always to bring all of the art programs at Artis—Naples under a singular and strong design.  “Artis—Naples is a pillar of this community,” van Bergen said. “It was once largely a fishing village and now it’s a cultural village. We’re quite different from other organizations that are 100 years old or more because we envelop all of our programmings under one overarching leadership, which gives us the opportunity to synthesize the arts in a way that hasn’t been done before.” Artis—Naples will turn 30 years old in 2019. With robust programs in film, dance, music, and visual art, visitors will be given a multidisciplinary experience when they step onto the new campus. The thousands of schoolchildren who visit each year, as well as the near-800 events that are held on site, half of which are free, speak to the institution’s commitment to providing a welcome environment for people of all backgrounds to be inspired by both nature and art, according to van Bergen. Construction on The Baker Museum is set to begin immediately and it's expected to open in November of next year. Phase one of the master plan will also include the build-out of a new garden and courtyard between The Baker Museum and Hayes Hall, the institution’s 1,477-seat performing arts venue and home of the Naples Philharmonic. A lush and spacious plaza will link the two buildings and encourage social engagement outside of the main structures. Future phases of construction will include Weiss/Manfredi’s plan for raising the site on its southern end by creating an elevated plinth where additional venues will be built out and connected to the Baker Museum and Hayes Hall.
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Newly expanded Hunter’s Point South Park highlights a greener future for NYC parks

A report released earlier this week from the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) detailed the disconcerting state of New York City’s public parks system. While there’s a lot to worry about revolving around the city’s great outdoor spaces, all is not lost. New urban oases and major rehabilitation projects have been popping up throughout the five boroughs over the last 20 years—the latest of which adds 5.5 acres of restored wetlands habitat to the Queens waterfront. On Wednesday, the second phase of Hunter’s Point South Park opened to the public, creating 11 acres of continuous riverside parkland in Long Island City. The new site brings a fresh breath of air to the formerly inaccessible, industrialized site and showcases expansive views of the East River alongside Newtown Creek. SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI teamed up to design the new addition after working together on the first phase of the park, which opened in 2013. Just north of the site, Gantry Plaza State Park—opened in 1998 also designed by Thomas Balsley Associates —seamlessly connects to the new space.   The brand-new design features the same tone and style as its sister site, but includes several new highlights: a shaded grassy cape, a new island connected via a pedestrian bridge, a kayak launch, exercise and picnic terraces, plus a 30-foot-high cantilevered platform that gives visitors panoramic views of Manhattan. According to the architects, the park serves as a model for waterfront resilience and acts as a buffer against storm surges. The opening of the newly expanded Hunter's Point South Park comes on the heels of the new Domino Park in Williamsburg. 
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Weiss/Manfredi, Neri Oxman among winners of 2018 Cooper Hewitt Design Awards

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced the winners of the 2018 National Design Awards, recognizing ten individuals and firms who have used design to shape the world for the better. This year’s winners include: Lifetime Achievement: Writer, educator, and designer Gail Anderson has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York for the last 25 years, and is an active partner at the multidisciplinary Anderson Newton Design. Anderson has written or co-authored a total of 14 books on popular culture and design, and formerly served as the senior art director at Rolling Stone. Design Mind: Landscape architect, award-winning author, and Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT Anne Whiston Spirn. Spirn was recognized for her longtime advocacy for balancing urbanism with nature, as well as her continued direction of the West Philadelphia Landscape Project. Corporate & Institutional Achievement: Design studio Design for America, which empowers communities to solve local problems through design. Architecture Design: WEISS/MANFREDI was recognized for the way their projects consistently bridge the gap between architecture, art, and the surrounding landscape. The firm’s been on a roll lately, having picked up several cultural commissions and an invite to exhibit at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. Communication Design: Digital identity and experience firm Civilization was recognized for its ability to create empathetic connections and commitment to working with companies who are advocating for the greater good. Fashion Design: The Los Angeles-based fashion designer Christina Kim was recognized for her use of traditional hand working techniques and sustainable business practices. Interaction Design: Architect and designer Neri Oxman was recognized for her experimental material usage and continual boundary-pushing forms. Oxman leads the Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab, a group whose work frequently bridges the gap between art and technology; their most recent project, Vespers, is a contemporary reinterpretation of the death mask typology that uses living microorganisms. Interior Design: The Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design was recognized for its sense-invoking interiors that are often inspired by local vernacular. The firm has realized projects all over the world from towers in Dubai to the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn, but like many of the other winners, Oppenheim balances their projects within the surrounding natural environment. Landscape Architecture: Boston-based landscape architecture firm Mikyoung Kim Design was honored for its vast body of public work, much of it focused on improving urban resiliency. The firm has tackled projects large and small around the world, from the Chicago Botanic Garden Learning Campus to the Songdo International Plaza in Incheon, South Korea. Product Design: Minneapolis-based Furniture designer and manufacturer Blu Dot was recognized for its playful and modern stylings (including some less-than-functional objects). The National Design Awards have been recognizing exemplary names in the design world since 2000. Nominees must have seven years of professional experience under their belt, while the lifetime achievement nominees must have at least 20 years of experience. Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt, will announce the winner of the Director’s Award at a later date, to be given to an outstanding patron of the design world. This year’s awards ceremony will be accompanied by National Design Week, which will run from October 13 through the 21st.
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Weiss/Manfredi master plan for Irma-damaged arts campus in Naples is revealed

After Naples, Florida-based arts organization Artis—Naples initially revealed its ambitious, Weiss/Manfredi-designed master plan earlier last year, the pounding Florida took from Hurricane Irma forced the arts group to alter their plans. Today the arts group released details of how its $150-million master plan lays out the Kimberly K. Querrey and Louis A. Simpson Cultural Campus, and a timetable for repairing the damage from Irma. The 99,000-square-foot campus is currently home to the Naples Philharmonic and the Baker Museum, which has been closed since September 6th as a result of water damage, and a handful of smaller arts buildings. With a goal of turning site’s tangle of impermeable parking surfaces into activity space, the heart of the new master plan lays in a set of ascending terraces at the campus’s core. The landscaped steps will also act as a “dynamic, outdoor space,” according to Artis–Naples. The surrounding interiors will also be revamped to better suit performances, learning areas, and social interaction spaces, all of which will look out on the new green spaces and elevated sculpture gardens. Most striking is the proposed visitor’s plaza, will rise up and give guests a view of the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Implementing the master plan and necessary renovations are part of Artis–Naples’ Future—Forward Campaign for Cultural Excellence, which is also responsible for raising the required $150 million. At the time of writing, $50 million has been raised, $40 million of which has come from the Artis—Naples’ Board of Directors. The campaign is now kicking off and $25 million has been set aside for the first phase’s capital projects, including repairs to the Baker Museum. The campus expansion will initially start in the south and include a redesign of the Baker Museum’s façade and entrance areas to make it more accessible. The façade replacing it will be built from natural stone, and the second floor will cantilever over a glassy, hurricane-resistant ground floor space on the building’s east side. The master plan was shaped in part by a public forum held on March 9th, where Weiss/Manfredi took public input on how best to shape the campus. As Artis–Naples is still fundraising, an exact timetable for the project’s completion is uncertain, though they hope to have the museum open by 2019.
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After the fires, the Monterey Design Conference offers a chance for reflection

When the Sonoma and Napa fires of 2017 tore through the Bay Area design community, several thousand structures were destroyed, and as many as 15,000 people were left without homes. Architects whose families and clients lost homes made it to the Monterey Design Conference last October to find comfort and to connect. Every year, I buttonhole attendees to seek out their favorite presenters. Sou Fujimoto won my informal poll, so I’ll start with him. Fujimoto began his presentation with a photo of a tree and a Tokyo city scene. The title of his lecture, “Between Nature and Architecture,” turned out to be the unintended theme for the conference. In all his work, Fujimoto questions obvious assumptions. This was true with two relatively small houses, House N and House NA, where he redefined the interior/exterior boundary. As with Richard Meier, most of his work is white. But unlike Meier’s work, his strives to almost disappear. He even questions assumptions about how to design a public bathroom in Ichihara, making the structure completely transparent and the landscape wholly private. Weiss/Manfredi’s opening lecture addressed the “binary reading of the natural and artificial.” Their low-rise projects express inventive ways to weave structure and landscape together, like Seattle’s Olympia Sculpture Park (2007) or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Center (2012). This approach reaches its apogee in the Novartis Visitor Center (2013). I can’t remember a high-security checkpoint being so graceful—like the spirit of one of Calatrava’s birds rather than the remains. They reminded us, with their handsome portfolio, that our experience of nature is largely constructed. An unexpected surprise was a last-minute replacement, the tall and very funny Jeff Goldstein from the Philadelphia based firm DIGSAU. Without a written script, he showed us a modest not-for-profit center that trains at-risk youth. Students helped build the wood collage wall. It was a glorious example of how to create authentic community engagement. Shohei Shigematsu, the head of the OMA’s New York office, showed us that there is a future to OMA beyond Rem Koolhaas. Milstein Hall, the expanded center at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning reminded of some of the big moves architects employed in the 60s. OMA’s diagrams are ingenious, but the spaces are not inviting. One of Shigematsu’s most interesting projects is his collaboration with artist Taryn Simon at the Park Avenue Armory. The concrete columns have a stillness that some of the jazzier permanent buildings do not. My spectacular visuals award goes to Dominique Jakob of the Paris-based Jakob + MacFarlane. Their design appears to be rooted in digital technology and seemed far removed from the mundane requirements of our West Coast digital overlords. On the river in Lyon, two office buildings, the “Orange Cube” and the “Green Cube,” with bold color and grand cutouts, make Apple’s and Facebook’s new buildings look almost banal. The firm’s 100-unit social housing project in Paris doesn’t follow the form of typical Parisian apartment blocks, and Jakob’s use of ETFE film for balcony curtains gives the building a wrapped Christo look on each floor. What was called the “Tribal Elders” slot at previous conferences was filled with the Los Angeles graphic and exhibition designer Gere Kavanaugh. Noted architect and writer Pierluigi Serraino, a raconteur and interviewer of some skill, could not contain Ms. Kavanaugh. While her presentation of modernist graphics did go on too long, Gere was entertaining. Another determined Angeleno, Julie Eizenberg, talked about Urban Hallucinations, her new non-monograph. Her firm Koning Eizenberg has focused on Los Angeles. They are unafraid of the quirky, the cheap, the historic, the imaginary, the gritty, or the glamorous. This is an architect who thrives on constraints and, as she says, “stretches the limits.” One of my favorite new projects was the Pico Branch Library, which allows everybody to connect to the larger digital universe while staying grounded in the very nonimaginary neighborhood. The “Emerging Talents” included Laura Crescimano, a founder of SITELAB Urban Studio with the late Evan Rose. She charts the course for design professionals engaging disadvantaged communities. Heather Roberge of Murmur and Jimenez Lai and Joanna Grant of Bureau Spectacular reminded us that Los Angeles’s up-and-coming architects are just as bold as the earlier generation. Stanley Saitowitz/Natoma Architects alum Alan Tse stole the show. In the few minutes he was allotted, he made us laugh and admire his considerable talent. His restaurants and interiors are sublime, and his construction budgets are what other architects would charge in fees. He made architecture real in a way I’ve rarely seen. We all needed some levity and inspiration as we returned home to question how or even whether we should rebuild so close to the wildland/urban interface. As with most Monterey Design Conferences, we came away with more questions and few answers.