Brownstein + Selkowitz Carousel takes shape at Mill River Park

Photo: Mill River Collaborative

Photo: Mill River Collaborative

Pennovation Featured in Fast Company

Photo: Michael Moran                                                          

Photo: Michael Moran                                                          

Will was the Lead Designer & Project Manager for Pennovation Works while at Land Collective.

Will to Speak at Virginia Tech's Landscape Architecture Week

Mill River Park featured in this Month's Landscape Architecture Magazine!

OLIN's Mill River Park and Greenway is featured in this months issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine. The article 'Change the Channel'  by William Saunders showcases the rewilding of the river corridor and the creation of park space for all to enjoy.

Click the image to view this month's Issue.

Click the image to view this month's Issue.

Mill River Park and Greenway was the recipient of an ASLA Design Award in 2015.

Cummins Green featured in Working: Deborah Berke

Cummins Green will be featured in the forthcoming monograph by Deborah Berke Partners WORKING. The project and respective imagery of our collaboration together will be represented. WORKING: Deborah Berke Partners is the first comprehensive overview of the firm since Deborah Berke was published in 2008, WORKING focuses on the most recent work of the practice, as manifest in buildings and spaces for work, art, music, and creative endeavours more generally.

WORKING: Deborah Berke Partners is the first comprehensive overview of the firm since Deborah Berke was published in 2008, WORKING focuses on the most recent work of the practice, as manifest in buildings and spaces for work, art, music, and creative endeavours more generally.

WORKING also touches on past projects, such as the Yale School of Art, Marianne Boesky Gallery and Irwin Bank. Using as one point of reference Deborah Berke's book with Steven Harris, Architecture of the Everyday, WORKING goes into detail on Berke's concerns for the ordinary and well as her unique embrace of―and take on―modernism and minimalism. With a particular interest in interstitial building and the renovation and restoration of nineteenth and twentieth century American architecture, the work of the practice occupies a remarkable position within contemporary practice―Berke's approach to context, to the ordinary, and to vernacular and industrial buildings all being clear evidence of this.

©      Deborah Berke Partners

© Deborah Berke Partners

Along with writing by Deborah Berke herself, the book is authored by Henry Urback, Director of the Glass House, and highly regarded critic, curator and theoretician of contemporary architecture. WORKING, in part, is also comprised of the insightful photography of Victoria Sambunaris, a long-standing collaborator of Berke's, and chronicler of the practice's work.

Will was the Lead Designer and Project Manager for Cummins while at Land Collective.

Mill River Park honored by ASLA in Chicago this Weekend

OLIN's design for Mill River Park will be presented a National Design Honor Award by the American Society of Landscape Architects this weekend in Chicago at the National Conference! Congratulations to the entire team.

The restored Rippowam River meandering through Mill River Park in Downtown Stamford, CT.

The restored Rippowam River meandering through Mill River Park in Downtown Stamford, CT.

See the full submission HERE. Will was the project manager for Mill River Park and oversaw construction documentation and construction.

NextFAB Bike Garden Featured on Beta Pleated Chic

The NextFAB Bike Garden was recently featured on the blog Beta Pleated Chic. The Bike Garden was a collaboration between Chris Landau, Henry Moll & Will Belcher. NextFAB had limited space but wanted to create a bike corral as well as social space for staff and members to exchange ideas. The concrete paving is reclaimed, and the bike 'A-frames' were constructed in frabrication studio.

Mill River Park receives ASLA Honor Award

We are proud to announce that Mill River Park and Greenway in Stamford, Connecticut  has received a Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Read more about the project and other award winners HERE

©  OLIN/Sahar Coston-Hardy

© OLIN/Sahar Coston-Hardy

Religious Study Center Update

The Religious Studies Center in Versailles, France is beginning to take shape. High density foam is being placed on top fo the garage to create the subgrad. Foundations are beginning to be cast for the various site elements.

Click to view the Concept Drawings

Click to view the Concept Drawings

A Restorative Landscape for Stamford

J.B. Jackson, in his book Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, wrote “No group sets out to create a landscape of course.  What it sets out to do is to create a community, and the landscape as its visible manifestation is simply the by-product of people working and living, sometimes coming together, sometimes staying apart, but always recognizing their interdependence.” This spirit of community and collaboration couldn’t be more evident than in Stamford, Connecticut during the city’s recent opening celebration of Mill River Park. Residents gathered for a weekend of festivities along the banks of Mill River, commemorating the long anticipated 14-acre park and river restoration by the Army Corps of Engineers and park design by OLIN—a nearly decade-long project. But the full story of Mill River’s evolution reaches much farther back into Stamford’s history.

Riffles and pools replace the dam and canal walls at Mill River Park   ©   Sahar Coston-Hardy

Riffles and pools replace the dam and canal walls at Mill River Park © Sahar Coston-Hardy

The Rippowam River, a name given to the meandering waterway by the native Algonquin peoples who once inhabited its banks, has been the backbone of the Stamford community for centuries. The river stretches 17 miles inland from portions of Connecticut and New York State through the West Branch of Stamford Harbor and into Long Island Sound. The lower nine miles of the Rippowam courses through the center of what is now Downtown Stamford and was coined Mill River in 1642, when the area’s first Puritan settlers dammed the river to create the town’s original gristmill, and the lowland area upriver of the dam became known as Mill Pond. Ever since, Mill River has been the focus of intense industry and the key to economic prosperity for the area.

Postcard circa 1900

Postcard circa 1900

Stamford has evolved dramatically over time, from its early stages as a Puritan outpost, to an industrial mill and manufacturing center, to what is now a home base for major corporations. But as with many urban landscapes, Mill River’s natural systems have suffered the ill effects of industrial and economic progress.

Plan of Mill River circa 1870

Plan of Mill River circa 1870

By the turn of the 19th century, the dam had been used as a carding mill, rolling mill, a foundry, and a woolen mill. In 1922, in an effort to protect its people and infrastructure from flood risk, the City of Stamford rebuilt the dam and narrowed the pond by constructing 15-foot high canal walls on the eastern and western sides of the impoundment.  In 1929, city planner Herbert Swan proposed his Plan of a Metropolitan Suburb, proposing an “Olmstedian” vision for Stamford. The plan focused on creating open space along waterways and preserving the unique character of Stamford’s picturesque natural systems that Swan contended were “unexcelled anywhere in the New York metropolitan area.’” He wrote, “In developing its plan, [Stamford] should accentuate those things which it has received either through inheritance or through nature that differentiate it from other communities…the points of difference in the plan are its points of excellence; it is these which, if properly understood and sympathetically employed…afford the strength and interesting originality to a plan and give the city individuality and character.”

Herbert Swan’s Comprehensive Plan for Stamford

Herbert Swan’s Comprehensive Plan for Stamford

One of Swan’s recommendations was for a Rippowam River Park, “through which flow tiny rivulets, and serves as refuge for birds and lesser animal life.’” Throughout the 20th century, the area around the channelized Mill Pond existed as a network of underutilized lawn areas, paths and benches. One major improvement came in 1957, when Junzo Nojima, a Japanese immigrant, planted a grove of 100 cherry trees in the park. This intervention became a central focal point of the park, beloved by Stamford residents. But unfortunately the park’s other dominant feature—the river—stood out as a barrier and eyesore, with the imposing concrete walls both inhibiting pedestrian access to the water and compromising the river’s natural ecological systems of flow and drainage.

Invasive species and debris stifled Mill River prior to restoration   ©   Mill River Collaborative

Invasive species and debris stifled Mill River prior to restoration © Mill River Collaborative

To make matters worse, it had become apparent over the years that the channelization of the river, a measure intended to prevent flooding, actually impeded Mill River’s natural defenses against floods. Silt buildup along the dam and impervious canal walls prevented stormwater infiltration, regularly forcing floodwaters over the walls and into surrounding neighborhoods. For decades, excessive amounts of silt, branches, trash, and other debris—everything from soda cans to street signs to cars—collected in Mill Pond, creating a network of unsightly and stagnant pools of brown muck choked with invasive aquatic plants and blooming algae.

Mill River prior to restoration  ©   Mill River Collaborative

Mill River prior to restoration © Mill River Collaborative

Mill River prior to Restoration ©   Mill River Collaborative

Mill River prior to Restoration © Mill River Collaborative

In 1997, as the dam and canal walls were falling further into disrepair, the City of Stamford began to study strategies to improve water and habitat quality in the river, and at the same time reconnect the residents of Stamford to the river and foster urban redevelopment in downtown. In 2000, The Army Corps of Engineers developed a proposal to naturalize the river corridor and remove all obstructions and impoundments from the waterway, allowing Mill River to flow freely for the first time since the 17th century.

Demolition of the Dam   ©   Mill River Collaborative

Demolition of the Dam © Mill River Collaborative

The demolition and restoration would reverse the effects of the river’s degraded ecological systems and reinstitute wildlife migration patterns—including the passage of anadromous fish (saltwater species that spawn in fresh water)—upriver.  Additionally, the restoration would reduce sedimentation into Mill River and beyond. In 2002, a joint effort between then Mayor of Stamford Daniel Malloy, the Stamford Partnership, and the Trust for Public Land led to the founding of the Mill River Collaborative, a partnership of civic, government, and business interests dedicated to realizing a world-class park along Mill River’s banks.

Before and After Restoration   © Will Belcher

Before and After Restoration © Will Belcher

In 2005, Stamford and the Mill River Collaborative engaged OLIN to create—in collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers—a plan to restore the meandering river and craft a vision for the park in the same spirit of the plan that Swan proposed more than 75 years before. The plan aimed to achieve three primary goals: create a park that meets the recreational and civic needs of a diverse population, provide a natural habitat for native flora and fauna to flourish, and offer a vision that is economically viable, maintainable, and implementable in phases over time.

Mill River Park at Grand Opening  ©   Will Belcher

Mill River Park at Grand Opening © Will Belcher

OLIN led a team of ecologists and civil engineers, collaborating with experts and engaging the public outreach sessions. Out of the process, a comprehensive and ambitious framework for a park and greenway emerged. The end result: a dynamic park that is viable, active and alluring, a continuous, programmed edge along the banks of Mill River, and a “green zipper” that brings together neighboring communities with downtown Stamford.

Mill River Park and Greenway Masterplan   ©   OLIN

Mill River Park and Greenway Masterplan © OLIN

The first phase of the park, which opened at the beginning of May, is the cornerstone for the entire park and greenway. It incorporates a naturalized river way, utilizing riffles, pools, and other stream restoration techniques which allow the river to flow naturally and direct flood waters downstream. This phase also provides areas for active and passive recreation, including the Grand Steps, a series of plinths and boulders which invite users to engage with the river’s edge.

Residents are reunited with their waterfront at the Mill River Park and Greenway Grand Opening   ©   Sahar Coston-Hardy

Residents are reunited with their waterfront at the Mill River Park and Greenway Grand Opening © Sahar Coston-Hardy

Another key feature, the Great Lawn, is an expansive green carpet that provides flexible open space for large events and a setting for waterfront entertainment. Thoughtfully placed benches and seating areas along pathways and overlooks encourage moments of contemplation and rest throughout the site. Paving materials were selected for their ability to withstand flooding events. Historic stone walls are maintained, and indigenous stone boulders were unearthed from a nearby construction and incorporated into the project as a celebration of local history and regional geology. A native planting palette is employed across the park—a further expression of regionalism—allowing for educational experiences for residents and visitors. Wildflower blooms and The Cherry Blossom Festival, the largest in New England, provide ephemeral experiences for park users in all seasons. Other programmatic functions, including movies, concerts, and fairs, are scheduled throughout the year by the Mill River Collaborative.

“Spielberg in the Park” drew hundreds of visitors to Grand Opening weekend   ©   Will Belcher

“Spielberg in the Park” drew hundreds of visitors to Grand Opening weekend © Will Belcher

OLIN’s work, however, is far from complete. The studio is currently involved in several new phases of the park, including the rehabilitation and beautification of Tresser Bridge and key streetscape improvements along the Tresser corridor. Additionally, OLIN is working on the extension of the Park and Greenway southward to the Stamford Harbor. Future phases include a carousel pavilion and covered porch designed by Gray Organschi Architecture, a dynamic fountain, ice skating rink, and restroom pavilion designed by River Architects, and whimsical playground restrooms by Rogers Marvel Architects.

Mill River Park Grand Opening Weekend   ©   Sahar Coston Hardy

Mill River Park Grand Opening Weekend © Sahar Coston Hardy

As Mill River Park and Greenway continues to evolve, the commitment and vision by private and public partnerships is firmly in place. Each phase brought to life from the pages of the master plan will weave together the Stamford community, creating a distinctive public realm. The park and greenway will be a place like no other in the region, one that showcases local flora and fauna, restores natural ecological systems, fosters new urban redevelopment, and celebrates community through diverse programming and daily enjoyment. And of course, as with Mill River’s own storied past, this park will surely continue to evolve for generations to come.

Will to Speak at Virginia Tech College of Architecture + Design 50th Anniversary

Alumni, faculty and students from the Virginia Tech College of Architecture + Design will come together to hold their 50th Anniversary Celebration  of the College during the first weekend in September. The event is a culmination of a yearlong anniversary celebration of achievements and history. 

The College invited Will Belcher of LAND COLLECTIVE to speak at the event. The theme of the weekend is based on the analogy of old riverbed, new water...a solid foundation of the colleges fifty years constitutes an old, established riverbed that guides the fluidity of new water, like fresh ideas and ever-evolving students and faculty through the geology of a solid pedagogy.

Will's talk, titled 'Four Rivers and a Campus' will focus on his recent and built works along waterfronts – focusing on the social dynamics of urban spaces.The talk will take place the Friday, September 5, 2014 at 9:30 a.m