Half the island is occupied by heritage buildings in the Dutch style, and the remaining 40 acres is to be developed as New York’s newest park. The Governor’s Island Preservation and Education Corporation was formed to manage the transformation of the island from an out-of-bounds military base to a new iconic venue for residents and visitors to New York.
The Corporation decided to invite five teams of architects and landscape architects, from around the world, to develop visions for the island that would be used to both promote the project to the public and to select a designer to work with the Corporation into the future. The teams invited were:
- Field Operations from New York with Wilkinson Eyre Architects from London
- Hargreaves Associates, New York with Michael Maltzan Architecture Los Angeles
- Ramus Ella Architects (REX) New York with Michel Desvigne Paysagistes, (MPD) Paris
- West 8, Rotterdam with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York
- WRT, Philadelphia with Urban Strategies Inc. Toronto
I was fortunate to be in New York during June when competition entries were unveiled. I visited an exhibition of design proposals and also attended a very controlled presentation of their work to a public meeting by the designers. I was fortunate to see the way they presented and especially the high end computer simulations and fly-throughs that they all were able to produce for fees which I expect were well outside the norm for Australian designers.
I don’t envy the jury in choosing between the five propositions because they were all enticing – but also still sketchy in their level of resolution. All schemes presented dramatic (and expensive) strategies for the island; they all suggested vague uses for the numerous heritage buildings on the developed half of the island; and they all emphasised how the park would work as an exciting destination for the public. Green themes were present in abundance, with West 8 from Holland even practicing their ideas by riding a prototype wooden bike, their proposed island transport system, onto the stage at the public presentation forum!
One issue that was not clear to me, and seemed to be avoided by the Corporation and the competitors in presenting their visions to the public, was how the project was to be funded in the long and short term. This site, once some public infrastructure is developed, will have immense value for all kinds of commercial activity from hospitality, fee paying events, to accommodation of all kinds. The temptation will be there to exploit these opportunities to fund the development and management of the island but it could come at a cost of detracting from the glorious visions presented of a 21st century Central Park on the water.
Have a look now at the web site and be tantalised by seductive images and words. Also keep a watching brief on this very special project to see how it unfolds.