New York City Aids Memorial Competition: The Village Red (Runner Up)
New York, NY
Memorials, ubiquitous in their static iconic representation of events which are stubbornly unchangeable are seldom given the opportunity to be functioning urban assets. In this context it is natural that an AIDS Memorial, which is not to history but to an evolving and improving present and potential future, embodies a dynamic dichotomy produced by the simultaneous coexistence of seemingly disparate aspirations; memorial and neighborhood park; recreation and education; symbolic and functional; remembrance and celebration, nothing too sacred and nothing too profane; this is the real generative effect of a living memorial.
Our proposal makes the simple assertion that the site is too precious to be parsed between uses, it must speak to all of its aspirations simultaneously. It must function as a neighborhood asset and community park, as a symbol and marker for those events and individuals instrumental in the AIDS cause, as a lively venue for parties, as an educational experience, as a place to take something away; as an urban agent.
A single performative plane acts as both the active and symbolic surface. Planted on top, left largely open for active recreation, its ‘quilted’ underside of formed translucent graphics recalls significant events and seemingly incidental personal stories. Peeling up at the corners to permit natural light deep into the block, the images of the quilted surface are visible to the street, becoming the built symbol of the memorial. The perimeter section of the memorial plane introduces natural light into the plenum highlighting graphics with changes in daylight. On the upper side, the sloped corners become opportunities for seating, sled-riding, performance, observation, and safety. ‘Belonging’ to the neighborhood, one enters the park at mid-block through a Bosque of Red Maples. At these edges planting and structural depth can be increased and the interplay between raised corners and tree canopy offers an open interior while maintaining connections with the surroundings.
A continuous sloped plane [1:20] at Greenwich and Twelfth provides a seamless transition to the multifunctional education/event space below. This space is conceived as highly flexible, serving education, gallery, plant nursery, office and events in a very open configuration with mechanical located below the ramp, distribution through a thickened perimeter wall, and restrooms along a corridor. Variable textile and technology tracks can be used to reconfigure the space and transform its character under different use requirements. A propagating plant nursery occupies two corners of the lower level while operable perimeter glazing permits a connection aromatically and acoustically with the outdoors. These nurseries allow visitors to take away their portion of the living memorial, a symbol of their visit and opportunity for Philanthropy.
This memorial seeks to capitalize on the diverse potentials vying for the site, making a park that is truly part of the neighborhood and a memorial that emphasizes the dynamic changing nature of an epidemic which is within the power of our collective wills to eliminate.