Weiss/Manfredi Selected for La Brea Tar Pits

John Hill
12. December 2019
Visualization: WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism

The firm of Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi bested fellow New Yorkers Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Copenhagen's Dorte Mandrup for the master planning, design and construction at the Tar Pits' 13-acre campus. Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC), made the announcement yesterday, saying "It was a difficult decision." But in the end, "there was consensus in the feedback we received from the competition jury* and selection committee, NHMLAC staff and board, and the Los Angeles community that WEISS/MANFREDI’s conceptual approach captured the imaginations of a broad cross section of audiences."

La Brea Tar Pits with the Page Museum beyond (Photo courtesy of La Brea Tar Pits)

Located in Hancock Park adjacent to LACMA, which is moving forward with its Peter Zumthor-designed building, the Tar Pits is an active paleontological research facility, its open-air excavations still yielding findings since research began there in 1913. A trio of fiberglass mammoths, one appearing to fall into a tar pit, is the symbol of NHMLAC's La Brea Tar Pits, which also consists of the Page Museum, designed by Willis Fagan and Frank Thornton in the mid-1970s. How the schemes addressed the mammoths and the museum appears to have dictated the selection outcome. DS+R would have moved the mammoths into a gallery, which was unpopular with the public, but WEISS/MANFREDI retains the icons along a curving, intersecting circuit of walkways that echoes the footprint of Zumthor's LACMA, as seen in the site plan below.

Visualization: WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism

WEISS/MANFREDI is working with a multidisciplinary team that will continue to grow as it involves a range of LA-based consultants. The team currently includes:

  • Experiential designer Karin Fong of Imaginary Forces
  • Horticulturalist Robert Perry of Perry and Associates Collaborative
  • Paleobotanist Carole Gee
  • Naturalist and artist Mark Dion
  • Designer Michael Bierut of Pentagram
  • Historic preservation advocate Brenda Levin of Levin & Associates
Visualization: WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism
*The NHMLAC jury:

  • Milton Curry, Dean of USC School of Architecture
  • Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer, City of Los Angeles
  • Kirk Johnson, Director of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
  • Kristin Sakoda, Executive Director, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture
  • Barbara Wilks, Founding Principal and Architect, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, LLC

Visualization: WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism

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