Leading Architects Respond to Olana’s Built and Natural Environments in New Exhibition at Frederic Church Site

  • HUDSON, New York
  • /
  • May 06, 2019

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Image credit: © Len Jenshel 2019

The Olana Partnership presents a special exhibition, IN FREDERIC CHURCH’S OMBRA: Architecture in Conversation with Nature, at the Sharp Family Gallery, Olana State Historic Site, from May 12 – November 3.

Olana’s 2019 exhibition, "In Frederic Church’s Ombra: Architecture in Conversation with Nature”, will showcase multimedia design concepts and installations, developed by leading architects and select artists. As Guest Curator, Barry Bergdoll (of Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art) invited a group of today’s most exploratory architects to respond to the transitional outdoor rooms at Olana that are so essential to the original 19th century design of Olana’s Main House. These architects were asked to examine assumptions about the relationship of architecture and landscape at Olana, as well as to explore the Main House’s transition to the surrounding natural environment, particularly in our time of climactic and environmental change. The resulting exhibition combines hand-drawn sketches, painted renderings, three-dimensional models, and video and computer animations.

Clouds over Olana, by Frederic Edwin Church, 1872. Oil on paper, 8 5/8 x 12 1/8 in. Olana State Historic Site, Hudson, New York.
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The first phase of Olana’s main house was designed collaboratively by the artist Frederic Church and the architect Calvert Vaux, and Olana’s main house and its 250-acre landscape were designed to incorporate vast Hudson Valley views. A key space in Olana’s main house design is the ‘Ombra’, an outdoor room which is a transitional zone between the central Court Hall and the surrounding landscape. This and the other transitional spaces at Olana (the Piazza, Round Veranda, and Bell Tower) have been unfurnished and not fully examined until now.

“Frederic Church’s Olana is a powerful work of environmental art, in which architecture, landscape, and concepts of life in nature were intertwined by an artistic vision,” said Guest Curator Barry Bergdoll. “This exhibition is at once an homage and investigation of Church’s design genius and a point of departure for a renewed conversation about design in nature.”

In the collaborative spirit of Calvert Vaux and Frederic Church, several architects in the exhibition have paired with visual artists and other designers to develop their concepts. The exhibition features the work of Steven Holl (Steven Holl Architects), Tatiana Bilbao (Tatiana Bilbao Estudio) with artist Arantxa Solis, Stan Allen (SSA/Stan Allen Architect), Amale Andraos and Dan Wood (WORKac), Jennifer Sage and Peter Coombe (Sage and Coombe Architects) with artist Chris Doyle, Mario Gooden (Huff + Gooden) with Walter Hood (Hood Design Studio). Exhibition design is provided by Spacesmith Architects.

Olana State Historic Site
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“The Olana Partnership is excited to shine a light on Frederic Church as a pioneering artistarchitect and to engage some of today’s most innovative architects in thinking about the critical relationship between the built and natural environments,” said Sean Sawyer, President of The Olana Partnership.

This opening of this exhibition marks the completion of the restoration of the historic landscape in immediate proximity to the Main House and these transitional spaces. In connection with In Frederic Church’s Ombra, The Olana Partnership is also collaborating with ‘T’ Space (Rhinebeck, NY) to present a series of architect-led tours: Architects on OLANA will explore the architecture, design and the natural world of Olana along themes relevant to today’s built and cultural landscape.

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