Design competition for the Pier draws big-name architects

ST. PETERSBURG — The architect of New York City's ground zero memorial wants to design the city's $50 million Pier project.

So does the architect of the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg and the architect of the High Line, a green walkway atop an abandoned elevated freight railroad in New York that has become a popular destination.

Friday was the deadline for architects from around the world to bid on St. Petersburg's Pier project. The current structure, built in 1973, is set to be demolished in 2013. Local leaders hope the replacement will represent the finest in 21st century technology and art.

"I'm being told from my staff that there's a huge buzz in the international architectural community about this project," Mayor Bill Foster said Thursday.

Thirty firms registered to compete for the design contest. The most renown: Studio Daniel Libeskind.

Libeskind is considered to be in the top tier of world-class architects. His firm has been successful at winning high-profile design competitions.

Among them: the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan and a $20 billion, 34 million-square-foot riverfront project in a business district in Seoul, South Korea. Libeskind's other buildings include the Jewish Museum in Berlin and an annex of the Denver Art Museum.

Other big names that will compete for the Pier project, to be completed by the end of 2015, include Yann Weymouth, of the Tampa firm HOK and designer of the Dalí Museum.

And there's James Corner, who designed New York's High Line Park. Like the Pier project, the High Line is a long linear park that poses the challenge of how to make the experience engaging enough so that visitors return, which has proved to be a nettlesome problem for the city's aging tourist landmark.

"That's the key question with the Pier, one that we'll have to figure out," said Justine Heilner, director of marketing and business development for James Corner Field Operation in New York. "We would hope it would become a destination by itself like the High Line has become."

All but two of the firms hail from the United States. Florida had the most with 11, including Harvard Jolly Architecture in St. Petersburg. Along with HOK, Tampa firms include Alfonso Architects Inc., and Machado and Silvetti Associates. Nine are based in New York, three in California, two in Massachusetts and one each from Atlanta and South Carolina.

The overseas firms are based in London and Pescara, Italy.

A five-member jury will help pick the winner. The jurors are Stanley Saitowitz, an architectural professor at the University of California, Berkeley; James Moore, senior vice president of HDR, an architectural, engineering and planning firm; Susan Fainstein, an urban planning professor at Harvard; St. Petersburg City Council member Leslie Curran; and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch.

Each entry in the contest is a team of design professionals led by a designer, a studio or a collaboration of individuals. The jury will choose three finalists in August. Once the City Council approves the finalists, each team will be paid $50,000 when it submits in late November renderings of the project and with detailed cost estimates and engineering plans.

Foster met Wednesday with Weymouth for 30 minutes at Panera. The meeting appeared on Foster's calendar, and when asked about it, he immediately volunteered that the subject of the Pier never came up.

Weymouth designed the Dalí, of which Foster is a big admirer. It was the Dalí's sleek modernist design that Foster had in mind when he told the council that it should think of designs that incorporate techniques that bend glass.

In fact, Weymouth, at about the time the Dalí was getting constructed, told Foster that he'd be interested in bidding on the Pier project, Foster said.

Weymouth couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Foster said he hadn't talked with any architects about the Pier since the council approved the design competition phase in May.

But he said even if the subject of the Pier had come up, it shouldn't taint the process because he doesn't oversee the final decision of which firm gets awarded the project. That decision will ultimately be made by the council.

Foster said he and Weymouth instead discussed another major project: a new police station that could cost more than $60 million. He said Weymouth was interested in bidding on that as well.

A final list of competitors will be available Monday that will include those bids that arrived after 5 p.m. on Friday, city officials say.

What's next

July 31: Jury reviews and selects 10 semifinalists.

Aug. 19: Jury reviews and selects 3 finalists.

Sept. 8: City Council votes to approve the list.

Nov. 29: Design concept submission deadline.

Dec. 15-16: Presentation of design concepts to jury.

Jan. 12: Final jury deliberation and ranking of three finalists.

Feb. 2: Winning design concept presented to City Council for approval.

Design competition for the Pier draws big-name architects 07/08/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 9, 2011 12:40pm]

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