News Column

Westcott House plans future development with grant money

July 27, 2014

By Katie Wedell, Dayton Daily News, Ohio

July 27--The Westcott House Foundation will use two recent grant awards to move forward with the development of open green space on its East High Street campus.

A $75,000 award by the National Endowment for the Arts and more than $14,000 from the Ohio Arts Council will allow the new Westcott Center for Architecture + Design to explore options for a visitor's center, classroom space and gardens on land between the existing Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Westcott House museum and new Solar House.

The center is working with architect Peter Bohlin, who designed some of the original Apple stores along with the Pixar Animation Headquarters, to carryout a master plan for the site created by landscape architect Carol Yetken last year. Bohlin also worked on the re-use for the barn at Fallingwater, Wright's famous work in Pennsylvania.

"We've been working on figuring out how to make Westcott House as relevant to our community as possible," said Executive Director and Curator Marta Wojcik. "How could we create a really engaging, nice green space that could extend people's visit to the Westcott House?"

Use of the land from the Westcott House north to East Main Street has been an issue since the museum's opening in 2005. A conceptual plan was created that year by Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman and there were plans to include a tea house designed by famed Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, who has since died.

Those plans were made while the museum was still in development and before seven houses on the site were determined to be of no historical significance and torn down.

"As exciting as it was to get Tigerman involved in the 2004 initial planning, we were simply not ready as an organization," Wojcik said of that early concept. "We did not even know how the house and our educational programming would be received by the public."

Ten years later, museum staff has a much better sense of what the community wants and what is feasible, she said.

"In the process, we found an architect who is one of only 73 architects who ever received an AIA Gold Medal," Wojick said. Bohlin shares that honor with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Another piece of the plan is to move the visitor's center and museum store out of the Westcott House garage so that an original Westcott Motor Car Company automobile can be displayed.

"From when the house opened to the public, we talked about the Westcott car and lack of ability right now to display to the public," Wojcik said.

The center also wants to explore the possibility of having classroom space and space for community events and lectures, she said. Those are programs the museum has been experimenting with for years, but hasn't had much room for inside the home itself.

"We're just trying to figure out, and it's not an easy task, how to do some features here that would connect us better with the community, that would allow them to enjoy this site on an ongoing basis," Wojick said.

The center will also update business plans for the whole museum campus and conduct a fundraising feasibility study to ensure any project is affordable and sustainable, she said.

The Westcott Center is one of only two projects in Ohio awarded the NEA's Our Town grant this year. The other grant went to L.A.N.D. studio, Inc. in Cleveland for a corridor improvement project.

The NEA awarded 66 grants totaling more than $5 million to organizations in 38 states.

The City of Springfield endorsed the project as part of the grant application and City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said the Westcott House has proven itself to be not only an important cultural landmark, but an economic driver for the community.

"A significant investment of approximately $6 million brought this beautiful landmark back to life and, as a result, tens of thousands of cultural tourists have visited our community since 2005," said Bodenmiller.


(c)2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)

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