New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYS OPRHP) and The Olana Partnership (TOP) announce that construction has begun for the Frederic Church Center for Art and Landscape at Olana State Historic Site.
Designed by Architecture Research Office (ARO), the Center will provide visitors with an immersive experience of the landscape, while serving Olana’s growing audience with orientation, education, tours, a café and other services. It will also include a multi-purpose room, expanded parking, gender-neutral restrooms, outdoor terraces, and connecting pathways.
The new Center is part of an overall master plan to expand access and interpretation at the site that was developed by renowned landscape architecture firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (NBW). 250-acre designed environment, including a home and studio for himself and his family.
The site, which has been called an “American treasure,” overlooks the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. Its views extend over four states and include a 10-acre “artificial” lake, the historic farm complex, open meadows, native woodlands, and more than five miles of carriage roads.
In 2015, TOP and NYS OPRHP engaged NBW to create the Strategic Landscape Design Plan (SLDP), a framework for restoring Olana’s environmental and aesthetic integrity, while increasing visitor services. The SLDP targeted three main areas for restoration: the House Environs, the Farm, and the Center.
With NBW already in the process of renewing land uses for the House and the Farm, ARO was selected to design the Center. While previously visitors were greeted next to Church’s house, NBW relocated visitor arrival and orientation to the site’s entrance.
Now, the Frederic Church Center will stand as a gateway to the site’s historic core, and give visitors significant views into Olana’s landscape upon entry. ARO’s design of the 4,500-square-foot mass timber structure will feature dark red vertical wood siding with expansive, bird-friendly glazing to provide ample daylighting and views.
Designed in reciprocity with the landscape, the Center opens onto a broad outdoor terrace where visitors can take in Olana’s idyllic surroundings. ARO utilized mass timber construction to reduce the Center’s embodied carbon footprint; materials include glue-laminated wood columns and beams, along with cross-laminated timber (CLT) roof panels, a first for a public building in New York State.
All-electric, high-performing HVAC systems demonstrate a commitment to carbon neutrality. Following this road to a new terrace, visitors arrive at an outlook over the property, which includes the lake in the foreground, a vast meadow rising in the middle-ground, and Olana’s hilltop Persian-inspired house in the background, as well as neighboring hills, valleys and distant mountains beyond the site’s historic boundaries.
Once complete, the Center will become a new part of Olana’s rich history. Following the death of its last inhabitant in 1964, Olana was the focus of an impassioned preservation effort that saw notable figures such as Jackie Kennedy, James Biddle, and Nelson Rockefeller call for the protection of its enduring beauty.
This helped launch a public-private partnership between the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYS OPRHP) and Olana’s non-profit support organization, The Olana Partnership (TOP). The Frederic Church Center is set to open in 2024 to coincide with the Centennial Celebration of the New York State Parks system.
The completion of the Center will also precede 2026, the 200th anniversary of Frederic Church’s birth. A national celebration of Frederic Church is being planned by Olana for 2026, and museums across the United Stated are expected to participate. Source by Architecture Research Office (ARO) and images Courtesy of KUBANY.