Olmsted’s Blank Snow

Sergio López-Piñeiro, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Buffalo, has created “Olmsted’s Blank Snow,” a seasonal “snow-scaping” project. The university writes that López-Piñeiro is working with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy to plow snow into 15 giant forms in Buffalo’s Front Park, a park Frederick Law Olmsted designed with his partner Calvert Vaux. 

As can be seen from the photo directly above, the snow mounds aren’t very big at this point. However, López-Piñeiro is aiming for 42 feet wide and 7 feet high mounds by February. This should be easy considering the city often receives almost 100 inches of snow each year. 

The university says when the project is completed, “the view from above will be whimsical: mammoth snow spots in formation, arranged along the border and interior of a half-ellipse. From the ground, the view will be picturesque, with glimpses of the city and waterfront filling the space between the man-made knolls.”

López-Piñeiro thinks of himself more as a choreographer of natural events than a landscape architect. “This project explores how to plow the snow in ways that result in interesting landscapes. So, in a way, you could argue that my role as a designer has been to choreograph the movements of the snow plows in the parking lot through the winter.”

The architect spent two years working out the concept, which first came to him while taking photos of the city’s naturally-occurring snow drifts. He then started to build a scale model of the park with toy snow plows and lots of heavy salt. Part of his modeling involved leaving some space “blank,” purposefully not defining how the space could be used. López-Piñeiro said he has no clear plans for how the space should be used by people or local wildlife. “I’m interested in relinquishing some of the power that architects have traditionally held. I’m interested in allowing and enabling people to use spaces in ways that are not necessarily foreseen by a single mastermind, the mind of the architect.”

The university believes the project could also serve as a model for other cities with a surfeit of snow but no way to harness its potential artistic and civic value. Hopefully, lots of people will visit.  

The New York State Council of Arts provided a $10,000 grant for the project, and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy provided access and donated the plowing.

Learn more about the project and watch a video.

Image credits: (1) Olmsted’s Blank Snow model, (2) Image of construction / Sergio López-Piñeiro

One thought on “Olmsted’s Blank Snow

  1. joy testa 12/28/2010 / 10:46 pm

    Congratulations Sergio, for getting this off the ground! Great show.

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