Only two weeks after finalists were announced for the Fisher Brothers-sponsored contest to repurpose the median strips that run along Manhattan’s Park Avenue, a winner has been chosen that could–maybe–reimagine the public park islands. “Park Park” proposes installing a series of elevated platforms down the middle of Park Avenue, creating floating parks, concert venues, and art galleries akin to the High Line.
"Beyond the Centerline" was announced in November of last year as a design competition to rethink how those medians are utilized from East 46th Street to East 57th Street, sans any limitations, with a $25,000 grand prize. A grand jury made of architects and planners voted on the winner after the 17 finalists were revealed, while the public was encouraged to vote for their favorite design for a popular vote prize. Ben Meade, Anthony Stahl, and Alexia Beghi of design firm Maison took home top honors with Park Park, which would place elevated platforms on each block and install unique programming on each.
Maison’s winning proposal presents a different typology for each block, including a basketball court, an aerial skate park, and a flying forest. It even includes projecting art on three enormous glass cubes. One of the boldest sections would install a bright red ramp that stretches seven stories into the air, with tight spirals meant to evoke comparisons to the Guggenheim Museum and present views down the boulevard.
The popular vote went to “Park River,” an ambitious plan that would have eliminated the medians entirely, squeezed the road together, and carved out a looping river on either side of the avenue. This new shoreline would provide new recreational waterways in the heart of Manhattan, allowing for kayaking in the summer and ice skating when the “river” froze over. Amy Garlock, Drew Cowdrey, and Fareez Giga of Local Architects will be taking home $5,000 for their efforts.
While all of the entries payed homage to the city’s history in one way or another and shone a spotlight on innovative new ideas for the avenue, it remains to be seen if any of the concepts could ever be realized. The guidelines forced entrants to stick to realistic proposals that could theoretically be built, but intentionally disregarded zoning and other real-world, non-physical hurdles.
Mini golf is not an activity usually associated with New York's Park Avenue. But at the behest of a real estate company, that's what a pair of architects have proposed for the grassy medians that divide the avenue, one of Manhattan's most prestigious streets.
Fisher Brothers, a real estate firm with deep ties to Midtown East, recently sponsored a competition to rethink the Park Avenue medians in the neighborhood. More than 150 urban planners, landscape architects, and architects submitted proposals that ranged from reasonably do-able to fantastically ambitious: In addition to mini-golf idea, other winning plans included a mid-avenue aquarium, pictured below, and an elevated park, kind of like a High Line crossed with SANAA's Grace Farms.
For their part, Michelle Schrank and Dijana Milojevic, the architects behind the putt-putt idea, would like to see a mini-golf course installed from from 46th to 57th streets.
Fisher Brothers will fête its winner with a $25,000 prize, but the people will get to vote on all 17 entries in a separate competition. The victor there will score a $5,000 prize, the New York Timesreported.
While it's not unheard of for real estate execs to sponsor design competitions, Fisher Brothers doesn't actually own the medians—the city does.
"The point is not necessarily to create the practical idea that will get funded and built," competition jury member Vishaan Chakrabarti, founding principal of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, told the Times. "The point is to focus our attention on things that are right in front of us and the possibilities there are."
Santiago Calatrava, currently the darling of George Clooney, has set up seven blade-like sculptures along Park Avenue in New York City. The installation is a collaboration between the Marlborough Gallery, the New York City Parks Department, and the Fund for Park Avenue.
The aluminum sculptures each have an expressive form that is classic Calatrava, but are not the all-white creations that we have come to expect from the architect. No, these pieces are painted red, black, and silver. The installation runs until mid-November meaning that it should close right around the time that Calatrava's long-delayed World Trade Center Transportation Hub finally opens.
Take a look at the gallery below for a closer look at the sculptures, and if you're in New York and want to see for yourself, the pieces are on Park Avenue's median between 52nd and 55th streets.
On Monday, December 3, the "Jewel of Park Avenue" at 230 Park, aka The Helmsley Building, really began to sparkle as building-owner Monday Properties unveiled a new LED lighting display to a crowd huddled at the base of the building, staring upward with anticipation as rush hour traffic swirled around. Monday Properties President and CEO Anthony Westreich and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer stood together to push a giant red button, officially triggering the light show, which flickered into action, turning heads of passers by for blocks around as a live violinist provided musical accompaniment.
Built in 1929, the 34-story tower stands guard over Park Avenue, terminating the street's vista looking south on the same block as Grand Central Terminal, and is one of the only buildings in Manhattan that you can literally drive through, underneath monumental stone arches. Designed by the same architects as Grand Central—Warren & Wetmore—230 Park was originally the headquarters of the New York Central Railroad Company and features many rail-centric decorations inside the building's ornate lobby.
230 Park has undergone an extensive renovation, bringing its 1.4 million square feet of office space into the 21st century and earning a LEED Gold certification. The new lighting scheme, designed by Al Borden of Philadelphia-based The Lighting Practice with LED lights by Lumenpulse, is part of the building's sustainability program, Westreich noted at the lighting ceremony, reducing energy requirements by 70 percent from the high-pressure sodium lights they replaced.
“Our intent has been to give the building a lively nighttime appearance by reinterpreting its historic forms and proportions with concealed uplight sources,” Borden said in a statement. “During daylight hours, when downlit by the sun, the building’s architectural details have a familiar appearance. At night, we flip the source upside down and present a new way of looking at the building. People will see details very differently and have a new experience of the architecture.”
Overall, more than 700 color-changing LED lights have been installed on the building, hidden from view on the street. Each is programmed into a computer than can coordinate a fanciful light show, as was seen at the unveiling, or a simple static light wash at night. Dynamic light shows can be expected during special events and on holidays like the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving.
Chairman of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Robert B. Tierney lauded the renovation and lighting efforts at the event, stating, "This is a model of restoration and preservation of one of the most important buildings in the city of New York, and therefore the United States." Scott Stringer was equally enthusiastic about the project during his speech, "The fact that this is a building that's sustainable, that speaks to reducing energy, is really about the future of cities around the country and around the world."
While the wash of color along the building facade creates a vibrant profile for the building at night, the real power of the light is at the tower's ornate cupola, where the building's detail comes into view in stark contrast to the rigid grid of windows on Walter Gropius' neighboring MetLife Building.