For a redesign of Coney Island—if not the world’s most famous amusement park, certainly its most iconoclastic—who would be the ideal architect? How about Frank Gehry? Too mainstream. Asymptote? Too polished. Lebbeus Woods? Too theoretical. Well what about Will Alsop? Now there is a carnival architect if there ever was one.
Such is the conclusion the Municipal Art Society came to while organizing a community design charrette for next month aimed at re-imagining the moribund amusement park. In addition to Alsop, the team of top-flight design and amusement professionals includes, among others, planners from WRT and Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, event architects Cloud 9, and two Disney ex-pats. MAS hopes the charrette will influence the city’s rezoning proposal for the area that is due to enter public review in January.
“We’re hoping to use these imaginative minds to create a vision for the future of Coney Island,” Kent Barwick, MAS president, told AN at Borough Hall yesterday, where the team convened for briefings from over a dozen stakeholders. These included everyone from barkers—the Parks Department, the Department of City Planning, local Council member Domenic Reccia—to sideshow freaks—Dick Zigun of Coney Island USA, author and historian Charles Denson, and Creative Time.
While Alsop and his comrades all promised an impressive showing at the charrette scheduled for November 13 and 14, Barwick insisted community input would be the lynchpin of any successful plan. “Coney Island is something everyone loves,” he said. “A good idea, we don’t care who has it, can benefit and influence what the city and private developers want to do.”
To help expand public participation, the group will soon launch www.imagineconey.com to gather suggestions. Combining the online and charrette ideas, as well as those from today’s event, the team will present a final design on November 17. “The Coney Island of the 21st Century is out there,” Borough President Marty Markowitz said during the event. “I am convinced that with the ideas from this team and the community, we can make it a reality.”
The charrette team is:
• Will Alsop, architect, SMC Alsop
• Margie Ruddick, landscape architect, John Beckman, planner, WRT
• Nicholas Goldsmith, engineer and tent designer, FTL Studio
• Enric Ruiz-Geli, architect and interactive designer, Cloud 9
• Henry Bardsley, engineer, RFR Engineering
• George Tsypin, stage designer
• Soren Lund, architect, Tivoli Gardens
• Anne Hamburger, creative producer, formerly of Disney
• David Malmuth, economist, RCLCo, formerly of Disney
• Jules Coche, renderer, Squint/Opera