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Public park and “motorcycle amphitheatre” for Harley-Davidson

Laura Puttkamer




UK designers Heatherwick Studio are creating a park next to the Harley-Davidson headquarters in Milwaukee, US. The park will contain an amphitheatre for up to 700 motorcycles. This is the first step in a multi-phased plan to revamp the headquarters for their 120th anniversary this year. Read all about the project here.

An amphitheatre for motorcycles

The new park and amphitheatre by award-winning British design and architecture studio Heatherwick Studio will be located next to Harley-Davison’s headquarters. The green space will replace a “dull parking space” next to the current office. Together with Minneapolis-based design firm HGA, the unfenced and public park will be developed in the next months. The idea of the landscaped amphitheatre is that it can be used to host motorcycle rallies.

Up to 700 motorcycles can participate in rallies in the amphitheatre. But according to Heatherwick Studio, 99 percent of the time the park will be for the people who work at Harley-Davidson and for visitors. The remaining 1 percent of the time, the amphitheatre will give space to motorcycle rallies. In addition, the park will be used as an events space. The 83-metre wide amphitheatre will have tiered seating, motorcycle driveways, turning circles, and 360-degree viewpoints.

20 species of trees and 120 plant species will introduce a new level of biodiversity to the area next to Harley-Davidson’s headquarters. The amphitheatre itself will consist of 10 types of locally sourced brick and weathering steel. With the choice of an amphitheatre, a “theatrical bowl”, Heatherwick Studio wants to deliberately create a community where people come together and see and hear each other.

The new public park next to Harley-Davidson will be for both the public and for motorcycle enthusiasts. Credit: Heatherwick Studio

An interesting park for Harley-Davidson

The project, funded by the Harley-Davidson Foundation, was commissioned by the company’s CEO Jochen Zeitz. He previously hired Heatherwick Studio for the design of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town. Similar to Little Island Park in New York, Heatherwick Studio will create a park that is “not just another park”, but instead an interesting space. Zeitz’s priority is to create a place where people want to come, inviting the Westside community and anyone interested in Harley-Davidson.

Heatherwick Studio’s park will open in 2024. It is part of a larger plan to revamp the Harley-Davison offices. They have been on the site since the company’s foundation in 1903. According to Jochen Zeitz, the park is an important first step for the multi-phased approach to reimagining the offices. As an accessible meeting space, the amphitheatre will serve as an area for dialogue. The company is looking for an inclusive space for everybody and will invite members of the public as well as employees for the next steps of envisioning Harley-Davidson’s future in Milwaukee.

In 2025, the motorcycle manufacturer will celebrate its 120th anniversary. For this occasion, CEO Zeitz intends to evolve into an all-electric brand, while also providing added value to its hometown.

The amphitheatre at the heart of the park will also be available for concerts and events. Credit: Heatherwick Studio

A space for the community

According to Thomas Heatherwick, founder of Heatherwick Studio, the design will transform the concrete site into a civic and soulful green gathering space. “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,” he said.

The design of the amphitheatre will promote the idea of togetherness for the community, the motorbike riders, and Harley-Davidson employees alike. In one direction, it will provide views of the brick buildings that are the original home of Harley-Davidson. In the other direction, visitors will see a park full of native plant species, some of which are sacred to the Forest County Potawatomi.

There are also plans for a market street, a contemplative garden, and a nature playground. The Harley-Davidson Foundation, which is overseeing and funding the initial development, has also expressed interest in longer-term sponsorship and donor-opportunities. Heatherwick will act as Design Guardian will collaborating with local firms like HGA, Greenfire Management Service, and diverse local suppliers. Ground-breaking is set for spring 2023.

Additions to the park might include a market street and playgrounds. Credit: Heatherwick Studio

About Heatherwick Studio

Heatherwick Studio is based in London. It has 200 employees or “problem solvers” that work to make the physical world better for everyone. Recent work includes the multi-award winning Little Island in New York, Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross London, Google’s campus in Bay View California, and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town. In 2023, the studio’s first major project in Japan will open.

Read more: Pier 55 in New York City houses Heatherwick Studio’s famous Little Island.

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