by STIRworldNov 23, 2022
With community building and engagement at its core, how can a piece of public design help re-energise a brand’s legacy?
The Harley-Davidson Foundation has joined forces with globally acclaimed architectural firm Heatherwick Studio, to transform a central element of a largely unused, concrete-dominated part of their headquarters in the city of Milwaukee, the birthplace of the American motorcycle manufacturer. A part of their Juneau Avenue campus will be turned into a vibrant, plant-filled public park with a warm and welcoming, industrial aesthetic, accessible to both its employees, as well as its hometown community in Wisconsin, USA. Manufacturing terminated at Juneau Avenue in 1973 but the buildings continued to be employed as the world-famous brand’s corporate HQ.
Heatherwick Studio will oversee the overall creative delivery of the inclusive public space design, which includes transforming the former concrete factory site "into a civic and soulful green gathering space that can be used by everyone," the design team shares.
"Our goal is to turn this historic factory land into a new public park for the people of Milwaukee. We want to make an exciting community space where people can come together with friends and family and experience the wildness of nature alongside spaces for food, performance, and play. The ambition is to highlight and celebrate renewed life in the Near West Side of this very special city," said Thomas Heatherwick, English designer and the founder of the London-based design practice Heatherwick Studio, who has come to define the urban skyline of Manhattan with projects such as the Vessel and Little Island.
The heart of the public park will be taken over by 'The Hub,' a sunken, 84m wide multi-use events space articulated with tiered seating, nestled amid a softly bucolic setting of lush plants and trees. As a nod to Harley-Davidson's brick-faced buildings, this central amphitheatre will be made distinct with 10 types of locally sourced brick, natural wany-edge timber, and weathered steel with a beautiful, warm patina. “The design promotes the idea of togetherness for the community, riders, and employees alike," the British architect relays.
The reworked part of the Juneau Avenue campus will feature a circular layout defined by a combination of “motorcycle driveways and turning circles, parking bays, sidewalks, plants, seats, and 360-degree viewpoints,” details the press release. The design proposal is nothing short of theatrical, an endeavour in community building through revitalised architecture and design that creates an accessible and aesthetic public space thrumming with collective energy for all who interact with it. "Harley Davidson is a world-famous brand. I just never thought we'd ever get the chance to think about something in this extraordinary location, right where the brand began and grew from that moment,” Heatherwick continues.
On one side, the multi-purpose, outdoor gathering space will boast views to the 'handsome brick buildings of the original home of Harley-Davidson,' while in another direction, visitors will be able to witness a resplendent park sown with 120 native plant species, including 20 species of trees and 100 species of perennials, 'some of which are sacred to the Forest County Potawatomi.' The public park’s design also carries plans for a market street, a 'contemplative garden,' and a 'nature playground,' replacing a pair of large surface parking lots.
According to the collaborators, the initial development of the park at the Harley-Davidson campus will be overseen and funded by the company’s namesake Foundation, with plans to include long-term sponsorship and donor opportunities for the future. Established in 1993, the Harley-Davidson Foundation is the philanthropic wing of Harley-Davidson, Inc., carrying an ethos of cultivating social impact through employee volunteerism, collaboration with other non-profit organisations and investments in youth programs. “Our Foundation priorities include a commitment to our home, the Near West Side of Milwaukee, and the communities where we live and work across the globe,” they inform.
“Milwaukee is the place we have proudly called home for 120 years. We want Harley-Davidson’s presence in Milwaukee to be more relevant than ever before, for our community, employees and our customers,” said Jochen Zeitz, Chairman, President and CEO of Harley-Davidson. “It's important to us to protect and enhance this part of our heritage in a way aligned to our strategy, ensuring that it will be relevant to future generations. Kicking the project off in our 120th year underscores both the project’s importance and the commitment we are making to Milwaukee. We are very proud of the work of the Harley-Davidson Foundation in spearheading this project, which builds on the $30 million donated by the Motor Company to the Foundation since 2020."
Heatherwick Studio will act as the 'Design Guardian' throughout the project, collaborating with local firms such as HGA, a Milwaukee architectural firm, as the architect of record providing civil engineering, landscape design, lighting, and technology design. The collaborators also relay that Greenfire Management Services, a Near West Side business and diverse supplier will ensure the project realises its potential to become an important part of the Milwaukee landscape that reflects both Harley-Davidson’s values and its transformative aspirations for the community.
"Milwaukee is the heart of Harley-Davidson. You have to have a healthy and vibrant home. (As) CEO, I always thought that we needed to celebrate the birthplace of Harley-Davidson; and celebrate that with those who live there, those who come there to work, and those who come there almost as a pilgrimage. It started as a shed, where bikes were built, then became a factory that evolved over the decades, and then became an office building. This is our 120th anniversary. How can we make Juneau Avenue, which is where the headquarter is, into something more meaningful, a project that celebrated the past but took us, as a company and branding, to the future? Heatherwick Studio has always been part of great transformations and innovations using green space and heritage to evolve it into something unique,” Zeitz added.
Imagined as an asset to the community, the repurposed landscape architecture puts inclusion as its focus, a meeting space that is accessible to everybody, for the Westside community, for the brand’s customers as well as its enthusiasts, making Milwaukee an important destination as the house of one the most iconic brands.
Juneau Avenue’s unfenced community park development is set to break ground in the spring of 2023, with the park available for use by the summer of 2024.