Ladies of Liberty: Cameron Ringness, Associate at FXCollaborative

Posted September 12, 2019

Earlier this year, the new Statue of Liberty Museum opened on Liberty Island with experience and exhibits by ESI Design. The new museum is part of a $100 million Liberty Island-wide beautification effort that is funded by our clients, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation.

To celebrate we’re sharing the stories of some of the talented people who have worked for over five years to bring this world-class museum from concept to completion.

In this edition, you’ll hear from Cameron Ringness, Associate at FXCollaborative and Project Designer for the Statue of Liberty Museum. Cameron was one of the first members of the museum project team in 2012, and hopes that the new museum will bring people closer and enrich the overall experience of celebrating and contemplating liberty.

Photo courtesy of FXCollaborative.

Name: Cameron Ringness, AIA, LEED GA
Job Title: Associate, FXCollaborative
Years of Experience: 8
Age: 31
Nationality: American, (Norwegian, Spanish, German-English descent)
Languages Spoken: English, some French
Education: Bachelor of Science in Architecture, University of Virginia School of Architecture; Master of Architecture, Tulane University School of Architecture


What was your first encounter with the Statue of Liberty?

Cameron Ringness, Associate, FXCollaborative: In 2012, FXCollaborative was awarded the project to design the architecture for the new Statue of Liberty Museum. I had never been to the island before. Having grown up in Ohio, I had only heard relatives and friends speak of visiting Liberty Island. I went on my first site visit in the fall of 2012 and I remember the yellow Linden trees and the patina of the Statue that seemed to glow on the grey day. I could feel the sacredness of that place. Standing on the island beneath Her, you feel at once removed—somewhere holy and separate—and connected to the world, past and present, through her meaning.

What was your role on the project? What did that mean for you day-to-day?

CR: From the start I felt extremely lucky to be working on this project and I was one of the first two members of the team. I became the project designer of the museum’s architecture and was able to maintain this role from the early concept design phase through construction. My day varied by the phase of the project.

In anticipation of the new Statue of Liberty Museum, members of the FXCollaborative staff (Ringness, center) flip through the original 1984 drawings for the renovation of the Statue of Liberty. Photo courtesy of FXCollaborative.

During concept design, I was working through multiple design options for the museum, and even multiple locations on the island. While developing those concepts, I was also researching both the island and the Statue, the site conditions, meeting with the State Historic Preservation Offices, and creating visuals to communicate our ideas. The big idea came as we landed on the final location for the museum off the Flagpole Plaza. The museum would not be a building in spirit, but would serve as a landscape, growing from the island, extending the park. My early sketches explored forms that morphed and blended into the island and paths in various configurations. I drew in a grand stair rising from the plaza which became the heart of this idea.

As the project developed, I was working between hand sketching and Revit to build a digital 3D model of the design, sculpting the overall form and continuing to develop and craft the architecture. In later phases I was drawing construction documents with my teammates, selecting materials, and eventually reviewing shop drawings, mainly the precast and granite. Along the way I also produced presentation drawings to communicate the design to the client and public.

You just opened a new museum for the Statue of Liberty — how does that feel? What does that mean to you?

CR: This museum is meaningful to me in countless ways. To work on a public project is always a joy because you are able to create a space meant for all. Not only is the Statue of Liberty Museum a place for everyone, accessible to everyone and welcoming, it is in service of the symbol and beacon of inclusiveness and freedom. I do not believe this is a place solely about the American dream; rather it is a symbol of the world as its name states, “Liberty Enlightening the World.” The museum is an extension of the significant landscape that resides alongside and below this iconic artifact. It will bring people closer and hopefully enrich the overall experience of celebrating and contemplating liberty. I am simply honored to have been able to add to this revered place.

FXCollaborative’s Cameron Ringness, Project Designer for the Statue of Liberty Museum, watches the highest steel beam be hosted into place at the topping off of the new museum. Photo courtesy of FXCollaborative.

Why is having a museum dedicated to the Statue of Liberty important?

CR: Beyond the practicalities of needing to move artifacts from the base of the Statue for ticketing and security reasons, the Statue deserves a worthy home to tell its story. The Statue stands alone as a symbol, but the museum allows the full history, importance, and continued questioning and meaning of liberty and equality to carry out for all who come to reflect upon it. The museum also enhances the island in a way that provides a more complete experience for visitors.

After working on this project, has your concept of liberty evolved?

CR: Even though I always felt I knew how iconic the Statue was and is, I was still surprised by its power and resonance. I learned how truly global the concept of liberty is, and how it continues to draw people from all cultures and all walks of life to witness its greatest symbol. The pursuit of liberty is a human right, and a human essential.

What were the steps in your journey to this iconic project?

CR: I was simply in the right place at the right time. I was hired at FXCollaborative just as the firm was named architects for the project, and I was lucky enough to be assigned the role of project designer.

Cameron Ringness, 2017. Photo courtesy of FXCollaborative.

Since you started your career, what’s the biggest change you have seen in the world of design?

CR: The conversations within design have become broader and more entwined with larger questions of human nature, social ideals, and our shared existence on this planet. I am excited that we are addressing these broader issues that affect us all through architecture, but much is still to be done. The field has only just begun embracing and pursuing diversity and uplifting minorities, including women, full-heartedly. Additionally, we no longer think about sustainability and climate change as an add-on. This is an inescapable truth that we must address in each project.

What advice would you give to your younger self starting a career in design?

CR: My advice is: Do not question who you are or that you are a woman in a field not yet made equal. Continue to be empowered by your unique perspective and experiences. Look to other women for mentorship and remain fearless that change will continue to come as long as we do not give up on our passions. Speak up for yourself. Don’t forget that the Statue of Liberty is a woman after all!

If you were giving a tour of the new museum, what would be your top highlight?

The building is full of surprises. Even though the architecture appears to be about one large move—the folding landscape rising out of the park—as you move around and interact with the building, you can find a tapestry of unique experiences. I began with a simple sketch of large steps emerging from the ground, but over time, the building was sculpted and shaped so that each corner and step offers something different for the visitor. It is these glimpses, these individual encounters with the architecture and its relationship to the setting that make it more than a building and better reflect the diversity of the island’s visitors.

About FXCollaborative

FXCollaborative leverages broad expertise in architecture, interiors, and planning to enrich our world with responsible, intelligent, and beautiful design. The firm’s holistic approach integrates client aspirations, an urban sensibility, and a celebration of the craft of building. FXCollaborative’s work ranges from the scale of individual buildings and interiors—office towers, multi-family residences, cultural facilities, workplace, K-12 and higher-education institutions—to the city as a whole, addressing infrastructure and transportation.

To read the rest of the interview series, click here. If you have any questions for Cameron, sound off in the comments!

ESI Design

NBBJ’s New York experience design studio, ESI Design, transforms places into experiences that seamlessly weave the physical and digital worlds together.

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