NWHOF Design Competition

Bero Architecture and five other regional architecture firms were invited in 2014 to participate in a design competition by the National Womens’ Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. The competition sought to procure designs for the proposed Center for Great Women to be located the grounds of the former Seneca Woolen Mills. The project prompt requested that the original limestone woolen mill building completed in 1844 on the banks of the Seneca River be retained and rehabilitated as the primary exhibit spaces for the hall of fame, and a new visitor’s center be constructed to provide support spaces and a large gathering space.

Bero Architecture teamed with Bayer Landscape Architecture to create the design concept of “Many Women, Many Paths,” which sought to weave the complexities of the larger site into the visitor experience of The Center for Great Women. The proposed visitors’ center addition, rehabilitated mill building, and designed landscapes drew inspiration from the many paradoxes of the village’s and mill’s history and physical context as stories of contrast and new direction. The resultant composition provides space for inward focus and outward orientation to reflect on and celebrate the many varied stories of vision, courage, strength, and inspiration celebrated by the Women’s Hall of Fame.

Designed as a two phase project, the proposed Center for Great Women would include the site features “The Many Paths Meadow”, a procession mall leading to the building complex, “Grove of Sentiments” a quiet gathering space among a grove of sixteen trees facing the Seneca River, and an esplanade running along the river and connecting to adjacent parkland.

 

The visitor center is designed as a thoroughly modern building that is compatible and complimentary to the existing mill building through its use of traditional materials and familiar gabled mass. A ribbon of glass and limestone wraps around the primarily brick building emphasizing an outward orientation to the surrounding context of Seneca Falls and is a path that ultimately leads directly to the Women’s Hall of Fame contained within the historic mill in the form of a large enclosed bridge. The limestone mill building is to be sensitively rehabilitated with historic window sash retained and restored and limited interior partitions primarily at the south wall of the building, leaving the view to the north of the river and village unimpeded. The Hall of Fame, to be contained within the second and third floors of the historic mill, was designed as a large open plan with suspended translucent display panels able to be reconfigured depending on exhibit needs which create a layered depth of visual space for visitors to navigate at their own pace and path of experience. Administrative offices, educational facilities, and a loading dock occupy the mill’s first floor, with the library and research center located within the vaulted structure of the fourth floor.

While not selected as the winning entry, Bero Architecture was honored to be part of the exciting process of imagining a new future for the National Women’s Hall of Fame – Center for Great Women.