Works of Weiss/Manfredi Architects: On Contemporary Territorial Expressions

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Works of Weiss/Manfredi Architects:  On Contemporary Territorial ExpressionsIntroductionMarion Weiss and Michael Manfredi are sure born winners.  Both have successfully created their contemporary forms on the earth surface and still continue to reap their rewards.

  Their ventures from 1989 to the present have proven success in their line of endeavor.  The firm briefly described its objective and that is to provide a design that “clarifies the physical and cultural aspect of each project (Architects).”  This statement underlines the diligent works of Weiss and Manfredi as works on territorial expressions which clearly delineates how these Architects embellish arts and landscape within their architectural multi-disciplinary designs.Architect Weiss completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia and won the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill Traveling Fellowship at Yale University where she finishes her Master of Architecture (Architects).

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  Her mentorship is about the intersection of architecture with art, urbanism and landscape which are seen in all her creation.Architect Manfredi a Paris Prize winner completed Architecture in the University of Notre Dame and Master of Architecture at Cornell University where he also received the Eiditz Award (Architects).  He is a professor of numerous institutions including Yale and Princeton, a founding member and trustee of the Van Alen Institute and that of the Storefront Art and Architecture.Both partners are fellows of the American Institute Architects and Gensler visiting professors of the Cornell University.

  Their multi-disciplined architectural practice integrates with it art, infrastructure and landscape designs.WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture “founded in 1989 with a total of 20 employees (Gerfen)”  received numerous awards in its previously completed work the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park located along the shoreline of Elliot Bay of the Emerald or Queen City of Washington.  Marion and Michael New York based firm have also completed the Barnard College Nexus Art building at Broadway Street alongside with brick facade buildings.  Nexus is a walk-able development that has multifunctional use or occupancy.

The practice masterpieces became the concurrence of several publications that deals on Museums or Culture and Landscape.  From 1993 to 2007 their major works was published along the genre of Landscape Architecture and some of the featured works are the Olympia Fields Park and Community Center, The Women’s Memorial Education Center, The SAM Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage Master plan (Architects).Some of these few buildings will be reviewed in the following pages to find out whether those works spoken on the architect’s statement truly inspires the firm design philosophy.Discussion on some of the Works of WEISS/MANFREDI ArchitectureSeries of lectures and exhibitions has been undertaken by the partners through out their active practice in promoting and addressing green architecture in an urban setting.

One of the works that is worth looking at is the Olympic Sculpture Park for the SAM Seattle Art Museum, located as seen in the map below:The nine acres park is a speck of green dust compared to the vast land where it is located.  SAM the proud owner of the sculpture park was able to acquire almost $110 million funds for the construction of the Z machine an exposition of northern contemporary art. According to SAM’s Deputy Director Lisa Corrin, “each corners or spaces are a creative opportunity for artists (News).”The landscape works tried to feature the”northwest natural environment by creating varied themes such as Valley, Grove, Meadow, and Shore-forming a mountain-to-sea (News).

”  However, treatment on hardscape materials became more prominent than the soft scape feature where it has almost dominated the entire site.  The tone of artificial landscape was easily attained with Weiss and Manfredi’s collaboration with Landscape Architect Charles Anderson.Their attempt to create a multi-textured landscape was done harmoniously with the Z layout which sometimes looks like an M (please see picture no. 1 in the next page).

   However the bird’s eye view provides a monolithic perspective that many of the green landscape features have been silenced. That is the minimalist way soft landscape was treated in the design layouts.  Plants were rather minimized to ease out the tediousness of maintaining the parks natural landscape.  Outdoor greening was sustained through turfs of grasses and some ground covers.

The open layout was very well designed in terms of placing the sculptural exhibits.  Spaces are well spent but the open layout may not be so inviting during hot summers.  The space is also too gigantic for a human scale to thread on.  The site itself is a relief to its adjacent concrete jungles.

The building is a sculptural genius that makes it a beautiful site most probably in the evenings with the interplay of light, shades and colors (please refer to picture number 2 on the next page).  That part in Elliot Bay connected the sea, land and sky which connected all the buildings at the background.  The green area of the park provided a contrast between the main structures of the building complex and the sea. Picture No.

1Picture No. 2The design of the Olympic Sculpture Park has a sharp symmetry that will easily direct visitors to the different precincts of the site.  The layout gives an impression on the design that does not admit an area of mistake.  Edges are well calculated to provide an ambience of comfort and security despite of the greatness of the scale of the area.

Mobility was very much considered in the layout for the design of circulations as much as visitors on wheel chairs can go around freely into the exhibits but a sense of nakedness when it comes to the outdoor garden setting is easily felt especially with the view of the tree that was left with no foliage at all.  Their works depicts a new-look about landscape architecture where it expressed that landscapes aren’t always green or to be kept green.  Most of the works of Weiss and Manfredi are defined by colors and light, and this well crafted work will provide extraordinary experience to people with a normal vision but is a kind to be regretted by men who are blind.A pavilion is erected which connects people to the water and a well done human made landscape called a new archetypal landscapes of the northwest which include an evergreen forest, a deciduous forest and a shoreline garden and that is bringing nature within by converting a man built environment into a landscape work in an urbanized atmosphere.

Territorial expressions are clearly seen by the dominant features of their work through the expert inter-play of artificial landscape in which the partners were thoroughly trained for.  That is what technology does when landscapes do not respond to natural growth but still required to remain intact in the design.The next project is in response to sustainable walk-a-walk development, the design for the master plan of the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage truly bridged the gap. The complexity of lower Manhattan’s circulation was the main problem that was provided with an architectural solution by the Architect’s skills creativity to connect.

The design solution provides “an improved vehicular and pedestrians access towards the FDR Drive by defining the areas of civic, cultural, and residential occupancy (Architect’s).” Success is attained through the study of critical locations of different uses and relationship between scale and beauty of the historical landmark of the Brooklyn Bridge.LMDC: Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage Master Plan located at New York, NYThe design also identifies new opportunity for economic activities which will financially sustain maintenance for the “development of the public landscapes which links both direction of the bridge connecting the civic center area to the waterfront (Architect’s).”The green colored light shows direction which also provides a sense of movement connecting the bridge to other buildings.

  That movement exudes a feeling of growth although artificially it is only enlivened by electro and mechanical means.Next is the Women’s Memorial and Education Center designed earlier by Weiss/Manfredi during the year the Architectural firm is founded in 1989.  It is a winning national design that creates new dimension of creating a memorial for women.  The use of free spaces was enhanced by the slit of the triangular glass siding of the roof which invites natural light within the building.

Again the territorial expressionist design can be seen through the use of arches mixed with the use of new materials like glass mixed with the historical granite.  The architects made use of something old to create a new expression.  They did not take away the old but enliven it, contrasts between the hemicycle is more defined by the sharpness of the contemporary curves.The design was influenced by the historical hemicycle retaining wall which provided a new passage towards the Arlington National Cemetery and the Memorial.

  The excavated arc formed 37,000 square feet new development which includes an exhibition gallery, auditorium, conference facilities, and Hall of Honor.  These developments gave a new trend of providing new physical experience in the use of spaces for instance commemorating the dead by giving a memorial that can connect the past to the present.  Connectivity is again use to conquer the territory of the past and bring it to the present by “using a 240 foot arc glass tablets in memory of the women who have served (Architect’s).”The last work of Weiss and Manfredi to be commented by this paper is the Nexus located within the vicinity of the Columbia University where major buildings are made out of bricks.

  Territorial expressionism is seen through the red entourage of the new building with the application of artificial landscaping as seen below where direction is directed by colors and light made “visible by the green atria (Gerfen).”This latest works of the Weiss and Manfredi architects that costs $42 million for a structure with an area of 110,000 square feet manifested a landscape job on a purely building project by the use of the artificial landscape concept.An Architect rendition of the Barnard College Nexus, New York New kind of treatment, instead of bricks these are blocks of glass.  These five storey streetscape glares even at night showing the red tone that is only typical in the morning.

  The glass patterns create the old brick layout with the aim of balancing aesthetic with the horizontal and vertical direction.  While glass interrupts the red tones it signify the main circulation within making the sectional view of the building seen from the outside (please refer to the drawing below).Longitudinal Section of Barnard College NexusSection of the curtain wall system (Picture taken from ARCHITECT Magazine)The curtain wall system allows for” standard glazing and double-paned light boxes with a plenum that allows light to be refracted back out (Gerfen).”  This allows occupants view in and out or up and down the building.

  Territorial expressionism is viewed in this project as not in limiting spaces but getting soaked into it.  Green painted atria is vividly seen from the street that invites spectator or gives a certain sense of experiencing the inside without coming inside the building.The Nexus succeeded linking its facilities with the surrounding urban development by allowing light into the core and using variety of texture to make the building appear natural and exquisitely define that it is new.  Nexus is a jewel that shines along the edge of the Barnard’s campus that echoed openness towards the Broadway Street.

Sustainable UrbanismA book about sustainable urbanism is written by Douglas Farr, Wiley and Sons to set a goal that by the year 2030, “human settlements dominant pattern will be towards sustainable urbanized environment (Farr; Ball).”The works of Architects Weiss and Manfredi are gigantic strides to incorporate nature within the very limited technology of the man-built environment.  Though mans effort is limited when it is compared with the greatness of the natural world these architects were able to demonstrate a work of art that is unimaginable in the past but is a reality today.  Moreover, sustainability is not just the duty of Architects but of the whole humankind.

Weiss and Manfredi’s thoughts do not differ from Maybeck a Californian architect before the new millennium who also happened to design a sculptural museum of art.  Green architecture has been the favorite past time for architects who have extended their creativity towards incorporating the natural greens with the hardscapes.The works of these architects were able to answer the following requirements of a sustainable urbanism through the use of what is termed today as walk-a-walk development and the use of an artificial landscape.  But since the world is not getting any younger and materials are getting scarcer, the minimalist attitude of these architects may not be sufficient to make the world survive longer or in the sense better for all.

Douglass Farr defines sustainable urbanism as the “integration of human and natural systems that combines dictum of smart growth (Ball).”  The call for action to educate an auto-dependent suburb and human-focused urbanisms is needed in order to break the barrier with nature focused environmentalists who believe that a well landscaped development is not the answer to sustainable growth for the environment.  But the action that requires incorporating green building concept and practices with the natural system on a large scale.The author of the book also criticized that there are buildings that are certified green by making human settlement a walk able community facility; however, Farr did not accept that as a solution on the call for action towards sustainable environment.

  He commented that those green buildings and smart growth initiatives are just half measures (Ball).”Weiss and Manfredi provided for walk able and transit-served and landscaped urbanism but Farr in his book argue on the need for an implicit requirement for large development in order to support the influx of businesses and mass transit commuters. He further commented that green building practices should be incorporated in the building design and must be extended to its surrounding practice by everyone.  For instance, the book that is being considered was made of recycled materials and environment friendly ink.

Architects’ are invited to a greater role when the concept of integration with nature causes a call for action that could even dictate an installation of a number of trees for the installation of a parking space wherein many factors dictates the allocation of this specific amenities for example the number of slots vis-à-vis with the number of occupants already calls for an architectural solution.  Compromise would rather be difficult to apply green building practices when people are not trained to do so.According to Ball, sustainable urbanism is a radical change in lifestyle for example is to reverse the trend by spending more time outdoor which is quite hard to grip since modern man no longer stroll on the park but inside the mall.  Man with his love for the indoor because of the new technology requires him to build more concrete jungle in his environs.

  With this trend man’s tendency is to bring the greens into his shelter while leaving nature to care for its own and for this reason architects has defined sustainable urbanism as walk able and transit-served urbanism integrated with high performance buildings and infrastructure within its sphere alone.ConclusionSince architecture gives direction and provides definition of spaces, architecture has dictated man to use his spaces the way it is built since the of time when the first home was established or trees were cut down to build a roof or the first clay or rock and other minerals such as metal was transformed into a building.  With this, Landscape Architecture incorporates not just the greens but all the colors that can be found in the color charts.  In fact, landscape is within the bounds of architecture and this has become the influence of all the works of Weiss and Manfredi.

Landscape arts or architecture can also be defined as the visible and touchable earth or the tangible environment of the mortal man. It contains not just the soil but it also includes air, water, and light.  The surface and subsurface of the earth is its integral part. These are the elements that are at present being considered by contemporary architects which makes their works no longer limited to symmetry, space allocations and creativity.

Architects are not supposed to build on clay or stones alone; there is a need to put life within and outside the buildings they are creating.  Weiss and Manfredi expressed this needs with excellence in all the building they have created by making good use of the technology that is on hand.However, the fastest technology that we have today can not provide growth for a seed to grow against its own time.  Time is needed in order for a tree to mature just like as fruits are to be harvested in due time so the fruit becomes sweet and palatable.

  Nature only obeys nature and unless this is not completely understood there will never be a compromise between man’s built-environment and nature.  When environment declines, the least architects can do for example is to build a fall out shelter in times of a nuclear war or to incorporate greenhouses to the buildings that they build but this will only be possible to benefit a few.Sustainability indeed has added new challenges to Architects in the very difficult task of providing shelters to humans especially now that nature is on its decline.  Circumstantially Weiss and Manfredi’s great works must go beyond their territorial expressions.

           Work CitedArchitects, Weiss Manfredi. “Weiss/Manfredi Architects Company Profile.”  (2008). 20 April 2008 <www.>.Ball, Matt. “Sustainable  Urbanism: Urban Designwith Nature.

”  (2008). 21 April 2008 <>.Farr, Douglas.

“Sustainable  Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature.”  (2008). 21 April 2008 <>.

Gerfen, Kathe. “Weiss/Manfredi Barnard College Nexus.” Architects Magazine  (2008). Architect Online.

23 April 2008 <

jpg>.News, Design. “Seattle Updates on Olympic Sculpture Park Program.”  (2003).


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