Yesterday, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park foundation received permission from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation to begin construction of Phase I of the Louis I. Kahn-designed park at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island. “This is the end of the beginning as we now embark on the construction of a great public park,” William vanden Heuvel, chairman of the foundation, told AN.
Commissioned in 1973 by then New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller in honor of President Roosevelt, the park is named for the former president’s esteemed My Architect, by Kahn’s son Nathaniel, and a 2005 show at the Cooper Union, Coming to Light.
Mitchell/Giurgola partner and project architect Paul Broches noted that only minor changes have been made to Kahn’s original work. “We’ve updated the drawings to comply with current ADA requirements and conducted more in-depth analysis of structural issues without changing the appearance of Kahn’s original design,” Broches said.
“While Kahn didn’t anticipate some of the issues we had to deal with, his design was well thought out and thoroughly designed, speaking for itself very strongly,” he added.
Divided into three phases, the park is expected to take 30 months to complete, that is, if all phases proceed seamlessly. “Right now we have our funding in place to build and complete Phase I, and must demonstrate our financial ability to complete each phase prior to beginning construction,” Gina Pollara, executive director of the foundation, said. Phase I will include the construction of the "room," a 72-foot-square plaza, open to the sky, as well as rip-rap modifications to the surrounding shoreline, and is expected to take 12 months to complete.
This project will be the first architectural work of Kahn’s in New York City, as well as the first memorial dedicated to President Roosevelt in his home state. Construction of Phase I is scheduled to begin this September.