This is my entry for the NYC AIDS Memorial Park Design Competition hosted by Architizer and chaired by Michael Arad, designer of the 9/11 Memorial. A sunken court with an altar - a living memorial - where personal tributes can be placed. The place is a quiet place. A place to remember. A place to contemplate. It is a special place in NYC for those to remember loved ones, known, unnamed, unremembered. A place to honor health care providers who helped those with AIDS. A place to remember those who died from AIDS. A place to think about AIDS. A place to recall and feel our common ties. A place to move on. A place set apart.
There is no true standing memorial to HIV victims . . . so the bland sarcophagus along Seventh Avenue holds that place in the geography of our plague memory; it is a museum, almost, a place haunted by Whitman’s “carols of Death.”
– David France, New York Magazine
|street plan - the park|
From Architizer about the site:
The site is located at the gateway to New York City's storied West Village neighborhood and blocks from the Chelsea neighborhood, on a triangle of land bounded by Seventh Avenue, West 12th Street and Greenwich Avenue. The cultural significance of this site cannot be overstated; it stands at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in New York City through its adjacency to the former St. Vincent's Hospital.
St. Vincent's is the single site most associated with the AIDS crisis in New York City. The hospital figures prominently in The Normal Heart, Angels in America, As Is and other important pieces of literature and art that narrate the stories of the plague years in New York. The area is also in close proximity to the LGBT Community Center, where ACT-UP and other AIDS advocacy/support groups first organized. The memories, personal stories, and associations with the hospital run very deep.
This triangle was the location of the Loew's Sheridan movie theater until the late 1970s when it was demolished to make room for the hospital's expansion including a loading facility, medical infrastructure and below-grade storage space. St. Vincent's hospital tragically went bankrupt in April 2010, and the entire former medical campus is being redeveloped into a new luxury residential development.
As part of that redevelopment, this site is being redesigned as new public open space. For many years, the community has expressed desire that the site be turned into a public park. The West Village, like most of Lower Manhattan, is starved for public, green, open places for relaxation.
The significance of the location, coupled with this redevelopment, creates an unprecedented opportunity. We strongly believe that the time has come for New York City to recognize this important history with a living memorial park that connects current and future generations and guides us forward.
|section looking towards Saint VIncent Hospital|
Also from Architizer:
We are looking for designs that function simultaneously as a useable park for the surrounding park-starved neighborhood and a significant memorial to the AIDS Crisis. Designs will be evaluated in their success at creating a functional park, available for both passive and active recreation, and a significant memorial with a strong commemorative narrative. Designers should consider reusing existing below-grade space to expand and extend the commemorative narrative: As a space for exhibition, teaching, meditation, or memorial elements. The park, memorial features, and any use of below-grade space must be integrated both functionally and aesthetically.
- Creatively and comprehensively integrate the important commemorative narrative into the fabric and essence of the park to create a living memorial
- Seamlessly integrate any adaptive reuse of the below-grade space, including issues of access/egress and ventilation
- Are welcoming, accessible and usable by all
- Seek to maximize planted areas and gardens
- Include ample seating and pedestrian walkways
My solution proposes a sunken court that ties the park above with the learning center below. The court is oriented towards the original hospital paying homage. A water monument stands on the 7th avenue end signifying loss while a garden is placed on the opposite Greenwich avenue end to signify life.
Functionally the court is designed to work with the existing grid structure of the abandoned basement. The court is separate from the learning center and provides an opportunity for natural light to penetrate the basement below as it punctures ground from above. Stairwells also act as lightwells.
The park is designed to protect the memorial. Also the memorial is part of the park. It is a mix of public and intimate. The park has places to sit, enjoy, play chess, stroll, farm. But through out the park the memorial with its water monument is always perceived and present. People should not be forgotten.
The learning center is completely accessible from above and below. Tunnels under West 12th and 7th are re-used so that pedestrians can get to and from the park safely. Elevators are provided.
All this to provide a place to remember. A place set apart. To remember those lost to AIDS. To learn. To sit. To move on. It is a respite from the urban hub-bub. Sweet. Bittersweet. Bitter. Sweet again.
Life from death ...
|obelisk at Greenwich and 7th|
A digital display for time, art, weather, and news provides a new landmark for the intersection at Greenwich and 7th.