Merging the Natural and Built Environments

Architecture Digest named Weiss/Manfredi one of its "Innovators for 2012." Learn more about this New York firm's visionary design projects combining architecture, landscape, infrastructure and art in the magazine's feature on their work. For more details about our Design Conference and how to register, visit the event page.


Architectural Digest Innovator: Weiss/Manfredi

A Manhattan architecture firm’s eco-friendly projects inventively merge the natural and built environments

When the Brooklyn Botanic Garden decided to add a new visitor center, it chose a site beyond a parking lot, away from busy streets. But Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi, among the architects who competed for the job, aren’t the type to give clients exactly what they want. Rather, they encourage them to want more, conceiving novel ways of making buildings and the environment weave—and work—together.

And so the husband-and-wife team proposed an alternative: Place the structure on the outer edge of the property, easing the transition from cityscape to landscape. They got the job, and this May the institution got the addition it deserved—not a box on a lot, but a sinuous green-roofed structure hugging an earthen berm that disguises the center’s volume and boosts energy efficiency. Changing the location, says Scot Medbury, president of the Botanic Garden, “was sheer brilliance.”

It’s hardly the first time the couple, who started the New York City firm Weiss/Manfredi more than 20 years ago, have been praised for their ingenuity. For Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park, completed in 2007, they manipulated surfaces as skillfully as origami masters, making art-filled terrain zigzag over railroad tracks and highways. Now they are hoping to do as much for Washington, D.C., where they were recently chosen to reconfigure part of the National Mall. Their plan, devised with landscape architects Olin, replaces a humdrum outdoor theater that requires spectators to turn their backs to the Washington Monument with a more flexible and far more graceful arena that “affirms the site as our nation’s center stage,” Weiss says. Also on the duo’s horizon is a lab at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. Set on a courtyard that offers glimpses of what’s happening inside, the facility will create a connection between town and gown—the sort of broad mission that fuels the architects’ imaginations. Says Manfredi, “We’re very drawn to projects where the client’s ambitions go beyond the requirements of the building.”

Published in Architectural Digest, September 2012

Texas Architects Second Annual Design Conference
Agenda (as of 1/18/13)

Friday, February 22nd

  • 2:00 – 4:00 PM
    Presentation and book signing by Tom Phifer, FAIA
    1.5 LHUs, HSW
  • 4:00 – 5:45 PM 
    Tour of Klyde Warren Park
    1.75 LUHs, HSW
  • 6:00 – 7:30 PM
    Reception at Highland Capital Management
  • 8:00 – 9:30 PM

Saturday, February 23rd

Sunday, February 24th

  • 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM    
    Tour of the Perot Museum
    3 LUH, HSW



To register for the 2nd Annual Design Conference, please save the registration form before filling out. Then fax it to 512-478-0528 or email it to

More information is available here.