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Architectural contextualism and emerging hybrid morphologies: the case of Olympic Sculpture Park for the Seattle Art Museum

Infrastructure networks have always been the primary feature of urbanism. As with any aspects of urban environments, the understanding of infrastructure networks and their practices have witnessed changes due to the shifts first to the modernist ideal and then to the globalised world view. In opposition to the former fragmented nature of infrastructure networks, modern urbanism proposed centralised, standardised and ordered planning of infrastructures. However, this coherent understanding is abandoned as globalisation and its economic organisation trigger liberalisation and privatisation of infrastructure, which leads to 'splintering urbanism', a term coined by Graham and Marvin (2001). In addition to these developments, the process of deindustrialisation converted the industrial sites of modern planning into problematic urban areas. Industries were moved away and networks that once served to integrate these areas were decayed, became obsolete and started to split urban areas. These changing urban conditions demand new spatial configurations. Olympic Sculpture Park for the Seattle Art Museum is a good example for discussing the changing urban conditions and the emerging new practices of architecture.The project was designed by the architectural firm Weiss/Manfredi. It was completed in 2007 and won the Veronica Rudge Green Prize the same year. Located on a former industrial site in Seattle, an emblematic condition of above-mentioned urban problems, the project generates a new spatial configuration based on contextual design strategies. The context debate is not new in the field of architecture and in order to comprehensively understand the emerging new practices, post-war context debate, which was characterised by the works of Team X, Ernesto Rogers, Aldo Rossi, Colin Rowe and Robert Venturi, has to be revisited. Thus, the aim of the essay is to examine the contextual design strategies of the Olympic Sculpture Park Project in relation to the post-war architectural context debate. Finally, it is asserted that new spatial configurations of architecture are characterised by the use of contextual strategies that lead to the hybridisation of morphology