Sylvan Theater at the Washington Monument in DC receives Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award

Sylvan Theater

The Sylvan Theater at the Washington Monument in DC, the competition-winning design by WEISS/MANFREDI and OLIN, has received the 2015 Chicago Athenaeum International Architecture Award. This prestigious honor recognizes developments of all kinds, from skyscrapers and urban plans to commercial buildings and private residences. The award acknowledges excellence in design, construction and planning and promotes honorable and admirable practices in development and sustainability. The 60 award recipients for 2015 span 26 nations and represent a positive and inspiring evolution in design that is taking place around the world. OLIN is honored to be a part of such a venerable collection of world class architects and designers.

The Sylvan Theater at the Washington Monument is expected to be completed in 2018.

11th Street Bridge Park Equitable Development Task Force

Video © 11th Street Bridge Park via YouTube.

The 11th Street Bridge Park has created an Equitable Development Task Force to help facilitate the completion of the four goals the park has set for the community. The task force is hoping to increase the connectivity of the communities around the future bridge park by encouraging equitable economic and social development, regardless of income or demographic. While the implementation of OMA and OLIN’s new bridge will help physically connect these communities, this task force is looking to take these neighborhoods one step further, working with government officials and business owners to develop more affordable housing, greater employment, and increase involvement in small workforce enterprise. The programs implemented will help fulfill the park’s ultimate goals of unifying DC, encouraging economic development, engaging residents in the environment, and promoting healthy lifestyles for community members.

Happy 5 year anniversary to our LA office!


This week, OLIN’s Los Angeles studio celebrates its fifth year anniversary. From the office’s opening as a one-person operation on June 23rd,  2010, the studio has grown and expanded OLIN’s portfolio across the U.S. and Asia, including:

Washington Canal Park Named Finalist for 2015 ULI Urban Open Space Award

ULI_Finalist Announcement_for blog-rev1-sized

Washington Canal Park is one of six finalist projects for the Urban Land Institute’s 2015 Urban Open Space Award. Each year, this prestigious honor recognizes one outstanding example of a public destination that has enriched and revitalized its surrounding community. Since its opening in 2012, Washington Canal Park has become a beloved asset to DC’s Capitol Riverfront neighborhood—a marriage of successful urban placemaking and thoughtful, resilient design.


Washington Canal Park at twilight. Photo © OLIN / Karl-Rainer Blumenthal

One of the first parks built as part of the District’s Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, LEED Gold certified and a three-star certified pilot project for the Sustainable Sites Initiative, Canal Park is a model for sustainability, a social gathering place, and an economic trigger for the surrounding neighborhood. Located on the site of a former parking lot for district school buses, this three-block-long park is sited along the historic former Washington Canal system. Inspired by the site’s waterfront heritage, the design evokes the history of the space with a linear rain garden and three pavilions reminiscent of floating barges that were once a common sight along the canal. The rain garden functions as an integrated stormwater system that is estimated to save the city 1.5 million gallons of potable water per year. Stormwater is captured, treated on-site, and re-used for irrigation, building use and interactive fountains. In collaboration with OLIN, STUDIOS Architecture designed a pavilion to host a café. A second pavilion serves as a stage and a third offers storage for park amenities. 28 geothermal wells beneath the ice rink provide efficient energy supply for utilities. Custom sculptures by artist David Hess are located on each of the city blocks.


Top: Pavilions designed by STUDIOS Architecture recall the sight of floating barges, once common along the old Washington Canal. Photo © OLIN / Sahar Coston-Hardy. Bottom: A glass cube atop the southernmost pavilion glows with projected imagery at night. Photo © STUDIOS Architecture.

Click here for the official press release from ULI.

Burlington Day Festival


OLIN celebrated with the City of Burlington, New Jersey this past weekend at the annual Burlington Day Festival. About 1,000 people gathered at the Riverfront Promenade to enjoy live music, good food and camaraderie along the Delaware River. A corner booth displaying OLIN’s vision plan for an improved promenade was a hot spot of activity all day long as the designers and city officials discussed the proposed ideas with the community.

OneNYC Envisions Bright Future for New York, Hunts Point


On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio announced the launch of OneNYC, a comprehensive plan to guide the city toward resiliency, heath, economic growth and social justice. The plan builds upon many previous initiatives, including PlaNYC and HUD’s Rebuild By Design Competition.

Hunts Point / Lifelines, OLIN’s winning Rebuild By Design proposal for the Hunts Point neighborhood in the South Bronx is featured throughout OnceNYC. The Mayor presented the plan at THE POINT Community Development Corporation in Hunts Point. “THE POINT CDC is thrilled and encouraged by the release of Mayor De Blasio’s agenda for addressing environmental and economic injustice through sustainability in the OneNYC initiative,” said Kellie Terry, Executive Director of THE POINT. “We look forward to continuing to work with our families, community partners, the Mayor, friends in the City Council and all of our elected officials, to ensure this vision becomes something real for those of us that need it most.”

Check out the plan and download the full report here.

Sylvan Theater Wins Progressive Architecture Award


OLIN and WEISS/MANFREDI’s design for the Sylvan Theater at the Washington Monument grounds has won Architect Magazine’s 62nd Annual Progressive Architecture Award. One of two recipients this year for the magazine’s top recognition, the project was praised for its contextuality, refinement and discerning approach to activate this central yet historically isolated part of the monument landscape, all while maintaining the pastoral integrity of the site and enhancing viewsheds to and from the Washington Monument. “The project is very progressive in how subtle it is,” remarked juror Ammar Eloueini, AIA. “It’s done in a minimal, elegant, and beautiful way that is as progressive as working with very sophisticated, formal geometries.”

OLIN and WEISS/MANFREDI co-led a multi-disciplinary team on the winning entry to the National Mall Design Competition in 2012. The project and other significant improvements to the National Mall are moving forward under a unique partnership between the National Park Service and the Trust for the National Mall as part of a campaign to restore, improve, and preserve the district as “America’s Front Yard.”

Three OLIN Projects Win AIA Awards

Image credits (left to right): © Tim Griffith, © Dennis Gilbert/VIEW, © Steven Bergerson

Image credits (left to right): © Tim Griffith, © Dennis Gilbert/VIEW, © Steven Bergerson

This May’s American Institute of Architects National Convention in Atlanta will see no less than three OLIN projects taking away top national honors. Announced this past Friday by AIA, the winning projects include UC Berkeley’s California Memorial Stadium, Target Field Station in Minneapolis and Broadgate Exchange House at Bishopsgate in London.

OMA + OLIN Design Wins 11th Street Bridge Park Competition


After a seven-month nationwide competition, the design for Washington, DC’s 11th Street Bridge Park by OMA + OLIN was unanimously selected by the competition jury. The design team was asked to transform an aged-out freeway bridge into a one of a kind new civic space over the Anacostia River.

The team’s design concept connects two historically disparate sides of the Anacostia River with a series of outdoor programmed spaces and active zones, including two sloped ramps that elevate visitors to maximized lookout points to landmarks in either direction. Each ramp terminates in a waterfall that reconnects the ramps to the river below. On the east side, the waterfall is linked to an active filtration system that in conjunction with new wetland areas adjacent to the bridge piers works to actively clear the river. To encourage visitors to the bridge and neighboring communities, the design includes amenities for comfort and refreshment and an open plaza for markets, festivals, and theatrical performances. The form of the bridge creates an iconic encounter, an “X” instantly recognizable as the river’s new image.

Hallie Boyce, OLIN’s Partner and design lead on the project commented, “The 11th Street Bridge Park project is an incredible opportunity to contribute to the civic fabric of Washington, D.C. through the design of an iconic, multi-functional landscape which promotes the health of the river and its adjacent communities acting as a model both nationally and globally.” Hallie was supported at OLIN by Partner and Director of Research Skip Graffam, Associate Les Bishop, Landscape Architect and Competition Manager Ryan Buckley, Landscape Designer Joey Hays, Landscape Designer Nich Steinkraus, Intern Kayla Oldham, Visualizers Chris Landau and Henry Moll, and Senior Landscape Architect Ari Miller.

OMA + OLIN were supported by a diverse team of global and local experts, including Arup, ETM Associates, Tetra Tech, HR&A Advisors, L’Observatoire International, Cecilia Alemani, ARCH Development Corporation, Threshold Acoustics, Fisher Dachs Associates, MKA Engineers, Wiles Mensch Corporation, Dharam Consulting, RJA, Gorove/Slade, Lynch & Associates, Habitat By Design, and Atelier Ten.

Read the full press release here.

This is Your Brain in Parks

David H. Koch Plaza at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. OLIN/ Sahar Coston-Hardy

What is it about a park that is soothing? Does it vary by person? Does it vary by park? Could design actually promote contemplation and calmness? These are questions that Agnieszka Anna Olszewska, a doctoral candidate in landscape architecture and urban ecology at the University of Porto in Portugal, sought to discover.

Earlier this year, she released a conference paper titled “Urban Planning, Neurosciences and Contemplation for Improving Well-being in Our Cities.” The paper documented a pilot project she developed “to prove that there are certain characteristics of urban parks and gardens that can induce…brain activity that is associated with contemplative or meditative states.”

The study asked a panel of four design experts to analyze a series of 50 images from urban parks in France and Portugal, rating design features and landscape elements that produced a calming, contemplative effect. The settings that ranked highest had a similar set of characteristics, with long-distance views (more than 400 meters), panoramic vistas, large empty spaces, clearings and natural asymmetry. The settings ranked lowest were generally enclosed spaces, pocket gardens and paths.

Of the original 50 images, Olszewska selected a set of 15 that were deemed “most contemplative.” She showed these images to subjects in the study and recorded their brain waves by electroencephalography (EEG). The resulting brain activity showed patterns of calmness similar to those documented during meditation.

The idea that the brain can show how we feel in different landscapes is truly fascinating…an intriguing tool that can guide us in our pursuit of transformative and beautifully designed spaces. While this type of research is still in its infancy, with Olszewska stressing that it was merely “proof of concept,” this study is laying the foundation for the quantitative understanding of our complex relationships, cultural biases and innate reactions to nature and the built environment.