Reimagining Central Park

 John Hill
30. November 2018
"Mannahatta Plateau for Frederick Law Olmsted" by John Beckmann, Hannah LaSota, and Laeticia Hervy of Axis Mundi Design
LA+ Journal has revealed the five winning designs in its ICONOCLAST ideas competition, which asked entrants to "reimagine Central Park to explore questions of how we represent nature and how we think about public space in the 21st century."
Redesigning Central Park -- akin to refashioning the Statue of Liberty, another New York City icon -- would only have a chance of happening if some worst case scenario came to pass. In the case of ICONOCLAST, it was an "eco-terrorist attack" taking place in 2018, creating an 843-acre clean slate in the center of Manhattan. This ideas competition, though far-fetched in its premise, gave architects, landscape architects, and other designers the opportunity to explore contemporary issues on an otherwise untouchable canvas.

ICONOCLAST garnered nearly 200 designs coming from almost 400 entrants from 30 countries -- rethinking the 150-year-old Central Park was quite a draw. ​The jury (Lola Sheppard, Charles Waldheim, Jenny Osuldsen, Geoff Manaugh, Beatrice Galilee, and Richard Weller) selected five winners:
  • The Geoscraper of the Captive Biomes by Tiago Torres-Campos (Edinburgh, UK)
  • Mannahatta Plateau for Frederick Law Olmsted by John Beckmann, Hannah LaSota and Laeticia Hervy (Axis Mundi Design – New York, USA)
  • Central Cloud of Breath by Chuanfei Yu, Jiaqi Wang and Huiwen Shi (South East University – Nanjing, China)
  • De(Central)ised Park by Joe Rowling, Nick McLeod and Javier Arcila (e8urban – Sydney, Australia)
  • Untitled entry by Song Zhang and Minzhi Lin (Song + Minzhi ­– Shanghai, China)

Included here are some images and words from the entry by the team from New York's Axis Mundi; all of the winners can be viewed on the LA+ website.
"Mannahatta Plateau for Frederick Law Olmsted" by John Beckmann, Hannah LaSota, and Laeticia Hervy of Axis Mundi: "The ravaged original surface of Central Park is left as a regenerating wilderness, a temple to the raw power of nature. Built over it is a green mega-structure, a plateau that supports a raised parkland consisting of a patchwork of abundantly diverse interconnecting environmental zones."
"Mannahatta Plateau for Frederick Law Olmsted" by John Beckmann, Hannah LaSota, and Laeticia Hervy of Axis Mundi: " The 200-foot-high structure is inscribed by the lines and scale of the city itself – the typical Manhattan building lot (25 x 100 ft) serves as the basic modular."
"Mannahatta Plateau for Frederick Law Olmsted" by John Beckmann, Hannah LaSota, and Laeticia Hervy of Axis Mundi: "The plateau is infused with plants native to the region to re-establish the island of 'Mannahatta' prior to the Dutch colonization. These plants form the basis of wild meadows, wetlands, wildlife refuges, and insect habitats."
"Mannahatta Plateau for Frederick Law Olmsted" by John Beckmann, Hannah LaSota, and Laeticia Hervy of Axis Mundi: "Unexpected juxtapositions and extensive circulation pathways are created between diverse zones for theater, cinema, music, visual arts, and local history, as well as activities such as hiking, swimming, and ice skating."
"Mannahatta Plateau for Frederick Law Olmsted" by John Beckmann, Hannah LaSota, and Laeticia Hervy of Axis Mundi: "As this project matures, new organic connections and cross-pollinations will occur between the revived Mannahatta plateau and the unplanned wilderness of Central Park beneath, creating a new ecological future from two versions of the past."

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