Olmsted’s Blank Snow

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Olmsted’s Blank Snow was a temporary winter landscape located in the parking lot of Front Park, one of the six Olmsted Parks in Buffalo, New York, during the winter of 2010-11. As a prototype, this project seeks to transform standard snow plowing practices into creative tools for generating new landscapes. We have designed and built this winter landscape by implementing a snow plowing plan that locates the snow mounds resulting from daily plowing. The design artistically exploits the spatial conditions defined by these typically overlooked snow mounds and exposes the hidden potentials of snow removal as a winter practice that can positively transform public space.

Most architects and urban planners only consider the snow in terms of practical concerns, such as safety or energy efficiency. Winter is perceived as a temporary season, while summer is portrayed as an everlasting condition. It has been said that we live in a permanent “summer mindset.” Lawn is an urban material, while snow is not. In contrast to summer’s green spaces, this project demonstrates the value of winter’s white spaces. In the winter season, Olmsted’s Blank Snow, is a ‘whitesward’ exposing how standard snow plowing practices need to be considered beyond mere practical needs. This winter landscape shall thus be understood as a snow observation ground to encourage people to consider and appreciate the snow and its accumulation from a different perspective, enabling them to reflect on how the snow can positively alter a city’s public spaces.

At the urban scale, Buffalo’s Park System exemplifies a unique cultural understanding of parks as blank spaces: following Olmsted’s political interest in a truly democratic society, parks are places where people from different backgrounds can come together. As part of Buffalo’s recreational spaces, Olmsted’s Blank Snow contributes to this understanding by demonstrating how snowed parking lots can be equally liberating.

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Project Data

Olmsted’s Blank Snow
Temporary Winter Landscape
Front Park, Buffalo, USA
December 2010 – March 2011

Design Team: Sergio Lopez-Pineiro, Nicole Halstead
Consulting by: Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Buffalo, USA
Snow Plowing by: Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Buffalo, USA
Funded by: 2010 Independent Projects Grant, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), New York, USA
Special Thanks to: Bert Baez, Jerome Burns, Brian Dold, Kevin Hanna, Thomas Herrera-Mishler, Stan Jennings, Bob Stotz, and Joy Testa from the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy; John Brennan, Wei Ling Kuek, Silvia Lee, Jay Podolak, Jeff Wing, and Bing Wu from UB Department of Architecture

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