Little Rock residents voted in favor (by 84%) of bonding the revenue from a 2% tax on lodging paid primarily by out of town visitors for the benefit of the Arkansas Arts Center, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History and Historic MacArthur Park. Plans for the leadership phase of a capital campaign began.
A Request for Qualifications was released for selection of a design architect. 23 design firms submitted proposals. The proposals were reviewed by a technical review panel including AAC Executive Director Todd Herman, AAC Chief Curator Brian Lang, Architect Ken Sims, Dean of the Fay Jones School of Architecture Peter MacKeith, Chair of the AAC Buildings and Grounds Committee Kaki Hockersmith and international museum consultant Deborah Frieden.
The technical review panel reviewed all proposals and recommended a slate of finalists to the selection committee based on specialized criteria outlined in the RFQ. Five firms were selected as finalists: Allied Works (Portland, Ore./New York), Shigeru Ban (New York/Paris/Tokyo, Japan), Studio Gang (Chicago/New York), Thomas Phifer (New York) and Snohetta (Oslo, Norway/New York/San Francisco)
The five finalists presented their firm’s general project approach and design philosophies to the selection committee on November 1, 2016. The presentations took place in the AAC lower lobby lecture hall and were open for public viewing. More than 100 people were in attendance at the presentations, including students, community members and media.
The committee determined the selection of design architect at a public meeting on December 6, 2016. The selection committee felt Studio Gang was the best fit for the project, due to the firm’s elegant and smart approach to architecture, their understanding of the issues posed by the AAC’s current facility, their vision for the center as a cultural beacon for Central Arkansas and their commitment to sustainability and strength as urban planners.
Founded by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang is an award-winning architecture and urbanism practice based out of Chicago and New York. A recipient of the 2013 National Design Award, Jeanne Gang was also named the 2016 Architect of the Year by the Architectural Review and the firm was awarded the 2016 Architizer A+ award for Firm of the Year. Studio Gang is recognized internationally for a design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities and environments. The firm has extensive knowledge in museum, theatre and artist studio spaces, with projects ranging from the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill. to the Aqua Tower in Chicago to the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
The selection committee included AAC Executive Director Todd Herman, City Director Dean Kumpuris, Director of Little Rock Parks and Recreation Truman Tolefree, AAC Board Chair Mary Ellen Irons, AAC Board members Isabel Anthony, Van Tilbury and Chucki Bradbury, AAC Foundation Chair Bobby Tucker, Little Rock Small Business Development official Chauncey Holloman, and past Director of the Central Arkansas Library System Bobby Roberts.
An RFQ was issued for selection of Associate Architect to partner on the project. Ten local firms responded to the RFQ, with Allison and Partners, Cromwell and Polk Stanley Wilcox selected as finalists.
The three finalist firms presented to the associate architect selection committee on February 16, 2017. The selection committee for the associate architect included AAC Executive Director Todd Herman, three representatives from Studio Gang, international museum consultant Deborah Frieden and AAC Board member Sara Hendricks Batcheller. The committee selected Polk Stanley Wilcox as associate architect to partner with Studio Gang on the project.
Polk Stanley Wilcox has previously worked on a number of local projects, including the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, Heifer International Headquarters, the Arkansas Studies Institute and the recently opened Robinson Center expansion and renovation. The firm also has experience working with clients in a variety of industries and focuses on sustainability and creating buildings that operate on minimal energy usage.