31 in 31: #11

This is a series for August 2010 which documents my on-the-ground -- and on-the-webs -- research for my guidebook to contemporary NYC architecture (to be released next year by W. W. Norton). Archives can be found at the bottom of the post and via the 31 in 31 label.

[FDR Four Freedoms Park plan | image source]

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his "Four Freedoms" speech on January 6, 1941, as war raged in Europe. FDR articulated the freedoms of speech and expression; of every person to worship God in his own way; from want; from fear. Four acres at the tip of Roosevelt Island were set aside for the Four Freedoms Park in 1973, the year the island was renamed for the President. Coming off his design for the Memorial to the Six Million Jewish Martyrs in Battery Park (unbuilt), Louis I. Kahn was commissioned to design the park and memorial. In 1974 Kahn dies unexpectedly, and "Mitchell/Giurgola Associates enters into an Architect’s Agreement with the UDC to complete the project." The following year's fiscal crisis in the city puts the project on hold indefinitely.

FDR Four Freedoms Park

Now under construction (lower portion of above photo, seen from Long Island City), the park's location at the island's southern tip makes the voyage to it as important as the design. First people must get to the island, best reached by the tram from Manhattan. Once on the island a walk along the east or west edge of the river (past the old Smallpox Hospital) brings one to allées of Linden trees that slope towards the island's tip and a square plaza with a statue of FDR. As the plan at top expresses, crisp geometry is the order of the day, not a surprise for Kahn. It will be interesting to see how his design is accepted by the public at a time when parks and other public spaces are designed differently: more naturalistic, less abstract, and with multiple programs accommodated.

#1 - Phyto Universe
#2 - One Bryant Park
#3 - Pier 62 Carousel
#4 - Bronx River Art Center
#5 - The Pencil Factory
#6 - Westbeth Artists' Housing
#7 - 23 Beekman Place
#8 - Metal Shutter Houses
#9 - Bronx Box
#10 - American Academy of Arts and Letters