Competitions as Stepping Stones for Young Architects
Example: Weiss Manfredi


Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island Campus Photo: ©Iwan Baan

 

In the early 1990s, Weiss Manfredi emerged as one of the most interesting young architecture firms in the U.S. How did this happen? Winning two important competitions in 1990/91—the Women’s Military Memorial in Washington, DC, and the Olympia Fields Mitchell Park competition in a Chicago suburb—served to propel this relatively unknown pair into the national limelight. From then on, the firm began to receive invitations to participate in invited competitions, winning several high-profile competitions, which included the highly acclaimed Seattle Art Museum Olympia Sculpture Park and the more recent Kent State Center for Architecture and Environmental Design competitions.

 

What marked their rise was not simply their expertise in developing landscape plans to fit a specific site, or detail in retrofitting or realizing significant buildings, but recognizing that architecture does not cease to exist at the front door. As a result of their success in those early competitions, the firm has received a number of commissions, such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Nanotechnology Institute and Cornell Tech’s recently completed “Bridge,” at their Roosevelt Island Campus. Not known for their high-rises, the firm seemed to strike just the right chord on this project. As a major piece of the Roosevelt Island campus ensemble, this building can hold its own with any of its neighbors—a tribute to the firm’s versatility.

 

Would all of this have been possible without those winning competition efforts? It’s clear that those experiences smoothed the path to career advancement…as both a learning experience and raising the firm’s profile.

 

  
Exterior and interior views  Photos: Iwan Baan

Interview with Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi:
https://competitions.org/2016/07/interview-weiss-manfredi-architects/

 

Calendar

 

 

Exhibitions and Conferences

 

Recent Archive Updates

 

Interview: Hodgetts & Fung (Summer 2006)

hobo.shell
Hollywood Bowl Renovation - Completed 2003 (Photo: Courtesy Hodgetts + Fung)

 

COMPETITIONS: Pursuing architecture as a profession apparently was not a foregone conclusion for either one of you when you began your college educations. It was somewhat of a winding road for both of you. Although industrial design and fine arts are not that far removed from the workings and aesthetics of architecture, it evidently took some time before you both decided to pursue it as a profession.

 

Ming Fung: I was always interested in the arts and in theater. Also, my background in anthropology led me to have a strong interest in how people live in a space. That interest in theater has always been in the background, in the work Craig and I do.

Craig Hodgetts: When we started our practice together, what really bonded us was this idea of human narratives, theater, and architecture as a setting for that. Ming was coming out of a background of film and theater, and I sort of came to it in a similar path, because I actually studied theater and did a lot of play writing. I got into architecture, because I wasn’t making any money as a playwright or as a scenic designer. A friend of mine had a drafting job where he was making ten dollars an hour. I thought I better learn how to draft. Then Charles Moore seduced me in terms of his humanistic view of what architecture was all about. I had no clue. There was a kind of resonance with Moore’s approach to architecture and the more theatrical approach. I think that’s a common D&A that Ming and I have: it’s not about the building, it’s about what happens in the building. You make the building frame these various scenarios, exchanges, and interludes.

There is another layer that went on top of that when we started working together, because we did do a lot of TV commercials and things like that. That brought us into contact in a serendipitous way with this incredible array of fabricators and technicians that exist in LA, and not anywhere else. That became a great resource, which came out of the theater and film background. This gave a certain flavor to the ideas that we have about how to fabricate a building.

 

COMPETITIONS: It has occurred to me that students studying architecture should be required to take a course in set design.

 

CH: We both press for that in our individual schools.

 

MF: Set design and theater lighting. Architects often don’t know how to light a building, and theater really sets the mood. There is a lot to learn from that.

CH: It can get over amplified to the point where your design becomes so particular in trying to control what people feel—which is inappropriate in an architectural framework.

 

hyde ext tele ch l
Los Angeles Public Library, Hyde Park - Miriam Matthews Branch (Photo: Courtesy Hodgetts + Fung)

 


COMPETITIONS: Craig, you were working in Stirling’s office before he became a star. What led you to that office, what was it like in those days, and what did you take from that experience?

Read more...