Design Omnibus: Roosevelt Island

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday May 24, 2017

Except for a couple of Saturdays in late April, when its rows of cherry trees are a draw for hoards of Japanese residents and tourists, Roosevelt Island seems like a sleepy suburb of the Upper East Side. Ten minutes by tram from East 59th Street, the 2-mile-long sliver of land in the East River is also home to a monument to our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


Four Freedoms Park, which opened in 2012, is a hauntingly beautiful space shaped by colossal slabs of granite sculpted into a wedge-shaped mass that culminates in a “room” opening onto views of the river and the United Nations. Designed by architect Louis I Kahn in the 1970s, but sidelined by the architect’s death at the time of the city’s fiscal crisis, the plans were given a second life following the 2003 release of My Architect,a film by Kahn’s son, Nathaniel.

Money was finally raised for the construction of Four Freedoms Park, for which slabs of granite were brought in by barge, and alleys of linden trees were planted in regimental rows. The formerly wild landscape of the island’s South Point is now a formal space that is as much a monument to its designer as it is to FDR. Info Note: on July 12, the park will host Manhattanhenge Info Photos above: © Peggy Roalf

And this fall the transformation of the southern end of Roosevelt Island will culminate in the opening of Cornell Tech. On a twelve-acre site that was formerly home to Goldwater Hospital, the first phase of the graduate and post-doctoral program's new campus will give the island a distinctively academic slant in four new buildings designed by Thom Mayne/Morphosis, Handel Architects, and Weiss/Manfredi Architects, with landscape design by James Corner/Field Operations. A recent press release offered this teaser: in August, the Tech Café will open to the public, serving American, Korean, Middle Eastern and Thai dishes in a space that includes a patio. Info Rendering above © Kilograph


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