The architecture firm Weiss/Manfredi announced December 11 that it has been selected to lead a master planning team in reimagining the historic La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. The team will work with Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) on a multi-year process of public engagement, master planning, design and construction at the Tar Pits’ 13-acre campus.
The La Brea Tar Pits is the world’s only active paleontological research site in a major urban area.
Weiss/Manfredi's multidisciplinary team includes Los Angeles-based experiential designer Karin Fong of Imaginary Forces; horticulturalist and water conservation expert Robert Perry of Perry and Associates Collaborative; paleobotanist Carole Gee; naturalist and artist Mark Dion; and designer Michael Bierut of Pentagram. The team will be augmented by Los Angeles-based consultants, including architect and historic preservation advocate Brenda Levin of Levin & Associates. Additional Los Angeles-based consultants will also be engaged in the master planning and subsequent project implementation phases, say officials.
NHMLAC chose WEISS/MANFREDI’s team through an international search process, in which three finalists were picked based on the “overall quality and character of their response to a Request for Information, their conceptual approach to the project, and their previous experience and team strength, along with interviews and references.” Copenhagen-based Dorte Mandrup and Diller Scofidio + Renfro of New York were the other two finalists.
To assist with the selection of New York City-based Weiss/Manfredi, the NHMLAC assembled a jury of experts in architecture, landscape architecture, design, science, natural history, and the arts. Jurors included 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; and Barbara Wilks, founding principal and architect, W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, LLC.
Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga said in a news release that it was a difficult decision to select Weiss/Manfredi, “as all three teams put forth compelling and creative” conceptual approaches. “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.”
The WEISS/MANFREDI conceptual concept is called “Loops and Lenses,” and it “creates new connections between the museum and the Park, between science and culture, and envisions the entire site as an unfolding place of discovery,” said Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, principals at WEISS/MANFREDI, in a joint statement. The design forms a triple mobius that links all existing elements of the park to redefine Hancock Park as a continuously unfolding experience.
The “Loops” create a half-mile-long continuous loop that wanders through the park and connects the community to science and history. The “Lenses” expand the museum to reveal the collection, making exhibitions more intimate and understandable. A third facet of the concept is landscaping, with 400 new trees to be planted.
The La Brea Tar Pits and The George C. Page Museum, built in 1977, and recently renamed the "Museum at La Brea Tar Pits,” are an active, internationally renowned site of paleontological research on Wilshire Boulevard in the heart of a Los Angeles. The asphalt seeps at La Brea Tar Pits are the only active urban fossil dig site in the world. Plants and animals from the last 50,000 years are constantly being discovered, excavated and prepared onsite daily. Since research began in 1913, the Tar Pits have yielded millions of prehistoric animals samples, including saber-toothed cats, mammoths, dire wolf and mastodon skeletons, as well as innumerable plants, small rodents, and insects.
The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County are a public / private partnership with the County of Los Angeles, which owns the 23 acres of Hancock Park, including the 12-acre parcel managed by NHMLAC.