The cat is out of the bag. An elevated park, covering over an acre of ground at the Word Trade Center site, will ascend 25 feet above Liberty Street in Lower Manhattan. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey had tried to keep the project—named Liberty Park—under wraps, but last month, Santiago Calatrava, the architect of the new St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, posted images of the building on his website, which also revealed the design of the adjacent park.
The New York Times reported that the $50 million park, which will eventually overlook the National September 11 Memorial, will have multiple uses from a a forecourt for St. Nicholas to a verdant passageway between between the financial district and Battery Park City. It will also provide a practical function as a green rooftop covering the trade center’s security center.
Joseph E. Brown, landscape architect and chief innovation officer of Aecom, will design the park, which will include 40 trees and shrubs, a curving balcony, several walkways, and a 300 foot long “living wall” composed of Japanese spurge, Baltic Ivy, among other plantings. It will also feature a grand staircase behind the church furnished with wooden benches and seating tiers.
Much of the design is subject to change, but construction on the park should be well on its way by early next year.
The new St. Nicholas Church will barely resemble its former home that was destroyed on September 11th. The new structure will rise on a large bulkhead to cover the vehicle security center on Liberty Street. In stark contrast to the simplicity of the original building, the new structure gives a nod to the architectural heritage of Byzantine churches in Istanbul: the Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora. According to the Times, Calatrava will design a dome with 40 ribs just like the Hagia Sophia, and detail the interior with “alternating bands of stone on the corners” which will “echo the walls of the Chora church.”
This decision to pay homage to the architectural tradition of religious institutions in Turkey is not only an aesthetic one. Many of these churches became places for Islamic worship at different points in history, and tailoring the design after these historic structures has greater and more meaningful implications about religious tolerance. Several years ago, protests ensured when a plan for an Islamic community center and mosque surfaced.