Bjarke Ingels, star architect, returns to Park City after design disputes
July 5, 2018
The renowned architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group, with offices in Copenhagen, Denmark, London and New York City, more than four years ago drafted designs for what would have been an ambitious expansion of the Kimball Art Center at the organization's former location in Old Town.
The firm, led by star architect Bjarke Ingels, envisioned designs that would have added flair to a historic, silver mining-era Main Street streetscape that Park City leaders and the influential preservation community have attempted to protect for decades.
The Bjarke Ingels Group designs for the expansion were ultimately either not pursued or rejected by City Hall. The rejection triggered the not-for-profit Kimball Art Center to sell the property, located at the high-profile intersection of Main Street and Heber Avenue, and relocate to temporary quarters along Kearns Boulevard.
Nearly four years after a community dispute about the Bjarke Ingels Group designs for the Main Street location, though, the Kimball Art Center in June announced it had tapped the firm to design a new building in a planned arts and cultural district proposed along the Kearns Boulevard corridor. The Kimball Art Center and the Utah offices of the Sundance Institute would anchor a district.
The Kimball Art Center's choice to retain Bjarke Ingels Group returns the firm to Park City, but it situates Ingels in a location where the stakes are not seen as being as high as they are in the Main Street core. The firm will also be given a location to work where City Hall design restrictions are not nearly as stringent as those along Main Street. The Kearns Boulevard ground is seen as a place where Ingels and the other architects working for the firm can craft a statement-making design without the worries of upsetting a historic district.
The Kimball Art Center leadership expressed excitement with the hiring even as there has been little information publicized since Bjarke Ingels Group was announced as the architectural firm. A conceptual design has not been shown publicly. The Kimball Art Center has indicated the new design will not be based on the earlier ones drafted for the location along Main Street.
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City Hall acquired the land where the Kimball Art Center's new building is envisioned from the Bonanza Park partnership and intends to sell the ground to the organization. The deal has not been finalized, but there is a high expectation the sale will be completed. The Kimball Art Center has enough confidence in the negotiations to bring Bjarke Ingels Group into the discussions prior to the land acquisition.
The Bjarke Ingels Group work is expected to be closely watched even at the Kearns Boulevard location. The Kimball Art Center is one of Park City's top-tier arts institutions, attracting the requisite interest for such an organization, and Ingels retains his status as a player in international architectural circles. The Kearns Boulevard corridor, meanwhile, is heavily traveled by Parkites, commuters and visitors, something that could add to the interest in the architecture even with the restrictions relaxed as compared to the Main Street core.
One of the Park City-area figures who could monitor the talks is Jim Tedford, a leader of the opposition to the Bjarke Ingels Group designs for the Kimball Art Center's former location. Tedford was displeased with the two designs the firm devised for the location along Main Street. He founded an opposition group known as Preserve Historic Main Street based on the Bjarke Ingels Group concept for the former location.
Tedford said in an interview the location along Kearns Boulevard provides broader design possibilities than Main Street does, describing that he hopes for a "real attraction for the town."
"It's pretty wide open what they can build down there," he said.
Tedford explained the original Bjarke Ingels Group design for the location along Main Street — resembling stacked railroad trestles and climbing to a height of approximately 80 feet — might not have fit Kearns Boulevard. The second design, resembling a triangular shape, may have worked, he said.
Mark J. Fischer is another person who will watch the discussions closely. Fischer is a member of the Bonanza Park partnership that sold the land where the Kimball Art Center would be located to City Hall. The partnership itself once held bold plans to redevelop the land as part of what was seen as a remake of the Bonanza Park district. It later opted to sell to City Hall amid difficult discussions with officials about a project. The partnership retains significant holdings nearby.
Fischer envisions a Bjarke Ingels Group-designed building having impacts on the overall redevelopment of the Kearns Boulevard corridor in coming years. A Bjarke Ingels Group building could influence others to "step it up" and would be "fantastic for the neighborhood," he said.
"I guess we can say a trickle-down effect," he said about the potential impact of a Bjarke Ingels Group building, adding, "It might jumpstart more, higher-quality redevelopment."