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/

 

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Interview: Peter Schaudt (Fall 2008)

 

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Peter Schaudt
Winner, Nathan Philips Square International Design Competition, 2007
Rome Prize Winner in Landscape Architecture (FAAR), American Academy in Rome Fellowship, 1990-1991
Third Place, Kent State May 4 Memorial National Design Competition, 1986
Citation of Merit, Innovations in Housing National Design Competition, 1986
Second Place, Copley Square National Design Competition (4 person team), 1984
Meritorious Award, Vietnam Veterans Memorial National Design Competition, 1981

 

COMPETITIONS: Environment often plays a role in what we choose to do with our lives. What was the determining factor that led you to become a landscape architect?

 

 

PETER SCHAUDT: My first goal was to become an architect. As I studied architecture here (in Chicago) at UIC, I was exposed to the great park system legacy of Chicago. We had many studios in the parks here. What actually led me to become a landscape architect was the Vietnam War Memorial Competition. I needed an art credit in architecture school, so rather than taking color theory or painting, and after seeing the poster, I approached the dean. He told me I could do it; ‘but you have to do it without an architect.’ So I teamed up with Charles Wilson, a wonderful sculptor at UIC, and I looked at that park through the eyes of a sculptor as opposed to an architect. The site in constitution gardens was a rolling site — very difficult because the competition site was half of an amoeba shape. That’s why Maya Lin’s project is so amazing. It’s because she was able to tie (her design) into the context.

 

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Shanghai Nature Museum and Plaza Competition - Winning entry (Rendering by Perkins + Will)

 

PS: I worked on it as an independent studio, made a couple of models and really elaborate drawings, and it led me to really pursue landscape more closely. Then I started reading more about Dan Kiley and his work here in Chicago at the Art Institute. I did win a merit award for my Vietnam Memorial design: there were over 1,400 entries, and they selected 46 merit award winners which I assume might have been the last day of judging and were on exhibit at the Octagon Building in Washington. As a senior in undergraduate school, that gave me an incredible amount of confidence.
viatnam night image vietnam pencil rendering
Vietnam Memorial Competition, Washington, DC - Meritorious Selection

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