Only two weeks after finalists were announced for the Fisher Brothers-sponsored contest to repurpose the median strips that run along Manhattan’s Park Avenue, a winner has been chosen that could–maybe–reimagine the public park islands. “Park Park” proposes installing a series of elevated platforms down the middle of Park Avenue, creating floating parks, concert venues, and art galleries akin to the High Line.
“Beyond the Centerline” was announced in November of last year as a design competition to rethink how those medians are utilized from East 46th Street to East 57th Street, sans any limitations, with a $25,000 grand prize. A grand jury made of architects and planners voted on the winner after the 17 finalists were revealed, while the public was encouraged to vote for their favorite design for a popular vote prize. Ben Meade, Anthony Stahl, and Alexia Beghi of design firm Maison took home top honors with Park Park, which would place elevated platforms on each block and install unique programming on each.
Maison’s winning proposal presents a different typology for each block, including a basketball court, an aerial skate park, and a flying forest. It even includes projecting art on three enormous glass cubes. One of the boldest sections would install a bright red ramp that stretches seven stories into the air, with tight spirals meant to evoke comparisons to the Guggenheim Museum and present views down the boulevard.
The popular vote went to “Park River,” an ambitious plan that would have eliminated the medians entirely, squeezed the road together, and carved out a looping river on either side of the avenue. This new shoreline would provide new recreational waterways in the heart of Manhattan, allowing for kayaking in the summer and ice skating when the “river” froze over. Amy Garlock, Drew Cowdrey, and Fareez Giga of Local Architects will be taking home $5,000 for their efforts.
While all of the entries payed homage to the city’s history in one way or another and shone a spotlight on innovative new ideas for the avenue, it remains to be seen if any of the concepts could ever be realized. The guidelines forced entrants to stick to realistic proposals that could theoretically be built, but intentionally disregarded zoning and other real-world, non-physical hurdles.