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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Replace Roosevelt Island Renwick Ruins With Calatrava Waterfront Restaurant Pavilion?

Image of Santiago Calatrava's restaurant pavilion for Southpoint Park from Main Street WIRE

Today's Daily News reports on efforts by local Roosevelt Island preservationists to raise an additional $3 million to the already allocated $4 million for the stabilization of the Renwick Ruins Smallpox Hospital at Southpoint Park. According to the NY Times City Room:
Under the current master plan for Southpoint Park by the Trust for Public Land, the ruin would be stabilized, though the building would not be rebuilt. There is $12.9 million available for the entire first phase of park development, which is to begin this year, of which $4.5 million has been set aside for the stabilization project.

Image of the crumbled Renwick Ruins from Gothamist

According to RIOC President Steve Shane:
"We've been told by the engineers that to really do an adequate job, we need somewhere around $7 million," ... "We have $4.5 million to spend on preservation. The rest of the money is slated for the parks, and I don't want to pit the preservation people versus the parks people".
The Renwick Ruin Smallpox Hospital:
... was given official landmark status in 1976 as “a picturesque ruin” that “could readily serve as the setting for a 19th-century ‘Gothick’ romance,” in the words of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Those who favor preservation say:
The hospital was designed by famed architect James Renwick, who was also responsible for St. Patrick's Cathedral and Grace Church.
"His buildings had a castle-like quality," said Judith Berdy of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. "Everything was built with quality. It's a beautiful, detailed stone fa├žade."
... "It's irreplaceable," said Berdy. "No one would have the budget [today] to put up a building like this [and] I don't know if there are any craftsmen who could put up a building like this anymore."
Not everyone agrees that the Renwick Ruins Smallpox hospital should be preserved particularly at a $7 million price tag. From Architectural blogger Tropolism:
Anyone who has visited the asylum knows that the old building is little more than a ruin, stabilized by luck, some steel, and a lot of ivy. And some theatrical uplighting. Which made the idea of preserving it something short of silly, both from a cost standpoint and a use standpoint. It's frankly more interesting as a ruin...turning it into a building again would make it bland again.
I agree with Tropolism. At a price tag of over $7 million, without any reasonable guarantee that after millions of dollars are spent the structure will not continue to fall apart, it is time to re-consider how these taxpayer funds should be used and to explore other possibilities for this section of Southoint Park. For example, how about replacing the Renwick Ruins Smallpox hospital with architect Santiago Calatrava's proposed Roosevelt Island Southpoint Park restaurant pavilion pictured above? Out with the dilapidated spooky Roosevelt Island, in with the dynamic winged waterfront eatery!

Below are some pictures to remember the Renwick Ruins.

Image from Weblicist of Manhattan

Image of Manhattan seen through the windows of Renwick Ruins from Undercity

Some intrepid urban adventurers such as these would miss exploring the grounds around the Renwick Ruins until ...


J$ said...

it seems like it would make a great museum of some sort.

Anonymous said...

In ten years that awful Calatrava design will blend in with every other industrial, modern building in this city. The Renwick ruins are still intriguing after all these years. It would be a shame to lose a lovely, historic place in favor of yet another restaurant that will no doubt turn out to be expensive and incredibly lame. Boo!