Past Exhibitions

In Frederic Church’s Ombra: Architecture in Conversation with Nature

  • Sharp Family Gallery, Olana State Historic Site
  • May 12 - November 3, 2019
Photo: © Len Jenshel 2019

In Frederic Church’s Ombra: Architecture in Conversation with Nature” showcases multimedia design concepts and installations, developed by leading architects and select artists.  As Guest Curator, Barry Bergdoll (of Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art) invited a group of today’s most exploratory architects to respond to the transitional outdoor rooms at Olana that are so essential to the original 19th century design of Olana’s Main House. These architects were asked to examine assumptions about the relationship of architecture and landscape at Olana, as well as to explore the Main House’s transition to the surrounding natural environment, particularly in our time of climactic and environmental change. The resulting exhibition combines hand-drawn sketches, painted renderings, three-dimensional models, and video and computer animations.

The first phase of Olana’s main house was designed collaboratively by the artist Frederic Church and the architect Calvert Vaux, and Olana’s main house and its 250-acre landscape were designed to incorporate vast Hudson Valley views. A key space in Olana’s main house design is the ‘Ombra’, an outdoor room which is a transitional zone between the central Court Hall and the surrounding landscape. This and the other transitional spaces at Olana (the Piazza, Round Veranda, and Bell Tower) have been unfurnished and not fully examined until now.

“Frederic Church’s Olana is a powerful work of environmental art, in which architecture, landscape, and concepts of life in nature were intertwined by an artistic vision,” said Guest Curator Barry Bergdoll. “This exhibition is at once an homage and investigation of Church’s design genius and a point of departure for a renewed conversation about design in nature.”

In the collaborative spirit of Calvert Vaux and Frederic Church, several architects in the exhibition have paired with visual artists and other designers to develop their concepts. The exhibition features the work of Steven Holl (Steven Holl Architects), Tatiana Bilbao (Tatiana Bilbao Estudio) with artist Arantxa Solis, Stan Allen (SSA/Stan Allen Architect), Amale Andraos and Dan Wood (WORKac), Jennifer Sage and Peter Coombe (Sage and Coombe Architects) with artist Chris Doyle, Mario Gooden (Huff + Gooden) with Walter Hood (Hood Design Studio). Exhibition design is provided by Spacesmith Architects, and graphic design is by Dylan Jhirad.

Listen to WAMC’s The Roundtable to learn more about this exhibition here.

In Frederic Church’s Ombra

Essay by Barry Bergdoll

Frederic Church’s Olana, created in consultation at the outset with the architect and landscape designer Calvert Vaux, remains — more than 150 years after it was crafted — a powerful statement in the long history of creating a relationship between dwelling and nature. That relationship, one of the leitmotifs of architectural theory since Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture — the earliest surviving architectural text — has been anything but static. Vitruvius compared the human instinct to construct shelter to the activity of certain birds, bees, and other animals who used the materials of nature to create a place at once made from nature and yet offering protection from its most virulent forces. Read More

Barry Bergdoll is Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History at Columbia University and a curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A specialist in the history of modern architecture, he has curated numerous exhibitions at MoMA, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Musée d’Orsay, and other venues, including Mies In Berlin (2001), Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity (2009-2010), Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980 (2015) and Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive(2017).

He is the author most recently of Marcel Breuer: Building Global Institutions (2017), and many other publications including La structure mise en lumière – Henri Labrouste (1801-1875) (2012), European Architecture 1750-1890 (2000).

Exhibition design by Spacesmith Architects (
Graphic design by Dylan Jhirad.


Stan Allen is an architect working in the Hudson River Valley and George Dutton ’27 Professor of Architecture at Princeton University. From 2002 to 2012 he served as Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton. His architectural firm SAA/Stan Allen Architect has realized buildings and projects in the United States, South America and Asia. His work has recently been featured in the XV Venice Biennale and the 2nd Chicago Architecture Biennial. His books include Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City; Landform Building: Architecture’s New Terrain, and most recently, Four Projects: A Stan Allen Sourcebook.

Amale Andraos is a co-founder of WORKac and a principal of the firm. She is also professor and dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. Andraos is committed to design research and her writings have focused on climate change and its impact on architecture as well as on the question of representation in the age of global practice. Her recent publications include Architecture and Representation: the Arab City, co-edited with Nora Akawi, as well as We’ll Get There When We Cross That Bridge, a duograph for the practice in conversation with Dan Wood. Andraos has taught at numerous institutions including the Princeton University School of Architecture, the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the American University in Beirut. She serves on the board of the Architectural League of New York, the AUB Faculty of Engineering and Architecture International Advisory Committee and the New Museum’s New Inc. Advisory Council.

Tatiana Bilbao — Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, established in 2004, Mexico City, Mexico and Basel, Switzerland by Tatiana Bilbao (b. Mexico,1972) is well known internationally for its use of traditional Mexican construction techniques, for creating sculptural effects that merge geometry with nature, and for a collaborative approach towards its clients. Bilbao has been visiting professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design (2018), Yale School of Architecture in (2014–18), and Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (2017-2018), professor of Design at the Universidad Iberoamericana (UIA) in 2005 and Visiting Professor at the Universidad Andrés Bello, in Santiago, Chile in 2008. She was advisor for Urban Projects at the Urban Housing and Development Department of Mexico City in 1998–99. Current projects include a mixed-use building for the University of Monterrey, Mexico. Past projects include the Tamayo Museum Pavilion Rufino, Mexico City, 2013; a sustainable housing study for Mexico, 2015, and an ongoing project for the Botanical Garden Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico, 2004–2019.

Chris Doyle is a visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY whose work explores aspiration and progress, questioning the foundation of a culture consumed by striving. His narratives feature a world of increasing speed and complexity in which environmental disaster and social inequities continue to generate anxiety of a looming apocalypse.  He has exhibited widely at venues in the U.S. and internationally. His temporary and permanent urban projects include commissions for the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia, the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Stockholm, Sweden, as well as for Melbourne, Australia, Edmonton, Canada and numerous cities within the U.S.  He is the recipient of a 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and the 2014 Borusan Contemporary Art Collection Prize. His work has also been supported by grants from the Creative Capital Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, NYSCA, and the MAP Fund.

Mario Gooden is a cultural practice architect and sole principal of Huff + Gooden Architects. His practice engages the cultural landscape and the intersectionality of architecture, race, gender, sexuality, and technology. Gooden is also Associate Professor of Practice at Columbia University where he co-directs the Global Africa Lab. Gooden is the author of Dark Space: Architecture Representation Black Identity (Columbia University Press, 2016).

Walter Hood is the creative director and founder of Hood Design Studio in Oakland, California. He is also a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and lectures on professional and theoretical projects nationally and internationally. Hood Design Studio is a tripartite practice, working across art and fabrication, design and landscape, and research and urbanism. The resulting urban spaces and their objects act as public sculpture, creating new apertures through which to see the surrounding emergent beauty, strangeness and

Steven Holl was born in 1947 in Bremerton, Washington. He graduated from the University of Washington and pursued architecture studies in Rome in 1970. In 1976, he joined the Architectural Association in London and in 1977 established STEVEN HOLL ARCHITECTS in New York City. As founder and principal of Steven Holl Architects, Steven Holl is the designer of all projects ongoing in the office. Considered one of America’s most influential architects, he is recognized for his ability to blend space and light with great contextual sensitivity and to utilize the unique qualities of each project to create a concept-driven design. He specializes in seamlessly integrating new projects into contexts with particular cultural and historic importance.

Arantxa Solis Pozos was born in 1990 in Cali, Colombia. Of Mexican nationality, she studied at the Faculty of Architecture of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) complementing her academic training at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture of Paris La Villette. She has participated with the Universidad Iberoamericana in the contest Arte / Idea 2006, obtaining honorable mention for the theoretical project Through the Looking Glass and in the collective exhibition Anthropometry 2015. Her profession is focused on the plastic arts, especially towards painting and drawing, since 2016, she founded, with Euri Lorenzo, FERVOR, a workshop dedicated to making decorative pieces with gold leaf, which presented a golden folding screen at the Museo Rufino Tamayo for Design Week 2017. Her work has been presented LAB Gallery, and Arroniz Gallery and at the J A Monroy Painting Biennial in Jalisco. Her work has been published in the book Flamantes, selected by the team of HAGO COSAS. She currently lives and works in Mexico City.

Sage and Coombe Architects is located in New York City and led by Jennifer Sage FAIA and Peter Coombe AIA. Their work is based on the belief that there are many solutions to any design problem and that the best work emerges from a collaboration of forces. Drawing inspiration from the specific site and culture of the project, there is always room for innovation and of course, humor. Their work has included the design of the Noguchi Museum renovation, the Bronx River Art Center, Smack Mellon, the Rockaways after Superstorm Sandy, as well as work for numerous academic, cultural and civic institutions, both public and private.  Currently, their redesign of a key piece of public space in downtown Newark is nearing completion. Sage and Coombe was selected multiple times for the Design Excellence initiatives for public work commissioned under the Bloomberg administration.  Their clients include the Maplewood Memorial Library, the New York Public Library, the FDNY, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the Mayor’s Office of the City of New York, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, the New York State Parks Department, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the City of Newark, and the Greater Newark Conservancy.

They have been honored with multiple design awards from the AIA and the NYC Public Design Commission for the Ocean Breeze Indoor Athletic Facility, the Noguchi Museum, the USTA Heineken Pavilion, P.S. 197 Park Facility, the Fort Washington Library, the restoration of Rockaways and the FDNY Marine 9 Firehouse. Sage and Coombe’s design for the Edgeless School Exhibit received design awards from both the AIA and the Society of Environmental Graphic Designers.  Their Track and Fieldhouse won the 2016 Architizer A+ Award.

Dan Wood, FAIA, LEED AP, is a co-founder of WORKac and a principal of the firm with extensive experience leading large scale and complex US and international projects. Wood was the 2017 Gehry Chair at the University of Toronto Daniels School of Architecture as well as the 2013-14 Louis I. Kahn Chair at the Yale School of Architecture. He is currently an adjunct associate professor at Columbia GSAPP and has taught at the Princeton University School of Architecture, Penn Design and the UC Berkeley School of Environmental Design, where he was the Friedman Distinguished Chair. Wood is a licensed architect in the State of New York and Rhode Island. His publications include 49 Cities and Above the Pavement the Farm! Co-authored with Amale Andraos. He is currently the Vice President for Design Excellence on the board of the New York AIA chapter.

This exhibition has been generously funded by support to The Olana Partnership for the Novak-Ferber Exhibitions Fund.

This exhibition was made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.