SO-IL and West 8 create visionary masterplan for ArtPark at Niagara Falls

by Andrew Manns | 22 May 2019
ArtPark can be the site that triggers contemporary conversations around nature, art, and humanity
– Florian Idenburg

Design practice SO-IL and landscape architects West 8 have won a competition to redesign ArtPark – a 37-acre cultural hub and events venue located on the Niagara Gorge in Lewiston, New York.

The aim is for ArtPark to become an internationally recognized, financially sustainable destination and a location for the intersection of art, performance, and community.

The overhaul will see the 1970s-era attraction gain a renovated main stage, an outdoor amphitheatre and a series of paths, walkways, viewing stations, and artist galleries – all of which will be integrated into the canyon.

The Artpark site has steep, rocky slopes carved by glacial activity and views of the densely forested valley of the Niagara River Gorge.

Artpark was built on a foundation of spoils from tunnelling works from the Niagara Power Plant which were deposited in an existing quarry. The Power Plant was built by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse and opened in 1895 as the first major hydro-electric power plant in the world.

From 1978 to 1989, the site was reclaimed by environmental artist Joshua Newton when local communities donated 3,000 truckloads of earth and compost to cover the spoils.

According to West 8, the masterplan envisions a complete rejuvenation for Artpark: "By enhancing the existing amenities on-site and working to engage the support of the Niagara community, the masterplan envisions a new age for Artpark that celebrates both its incredible topographies and cultural roots," they said.

The plan will be based on three approaches: 'revealing a new nature,' by sculpting the landscape of the park 'amplifying environments,' by creating spaces which capture views of the Niagara river and gorges and 'modulating frequencies,' by synching the park's programming with the seasons.

"It's going to be a place of imagination," said Florian Idenburg, founding partner at SO–IL.

"Because of its legacy and location, Artpark can be the site that triggers contemporary conversations around nature, art, and humanity."

Other members of the design team include theatre consultancy CharcoalBlue and Buffalo-based studio Gekh.

Backed by the Ralph C Wilson, Jr Foundation, Empire State Development, and a number of individual donors, the project is expected to enter the first stage of planning in June.

West 8  ArtPark  SO-IL  Niagara 
Design practice SO-IL and landscape architects West 8 have won a competition to redesign ArtPark – a 37-acre cultural hub and events venue located on the Niagara Gorge in Lewiston, New York. The aim is for ArtPark to become an internationally recognized, financially sustainable destination and a location for the intersection of art, performance, and community. The overhaul will see the 1970s-era attraction gain a renovated main stage, an outdoor
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CharcoalBlue are serving as the project's theatre design consultants / SO-IL and West 8
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'A place of imagination': SO-IL and West 8 to devise master plan for revamped ArtPark
Design practice SO-IL and landscape architects West 8 have won a competition to redesign ArtPark – a 37-acre cultural hub and events venue located on the Niagara Gorge.