Monday, March 24, 2008

Architecturally Challenged Roosevelt Islanders Were Correct - Louis Kahn/FDR Memorial Was Designed to Block Panoramic East River and NYC Skyline Views

The Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI) will present their eagerly awaited new design images for the Louis Kahn/FDR memorial at a Town Hall meeting to be held on Roosevelt Island tomorrow night March 25 at 7 P.M. in the Good Shepherd Community Center (543 Main Street).

Many Roosevelt Island residents have long opposed the Kahn Memorial (disguised as a FDR memorial) proposed more than 35 years ago for the southern tip of Southpoint Park because, among other reasons (i.e. $20 million in taxpayer funds being sought), these existing panoramic views of the East River Waterfront and NYC skyline will be obstructed and destroyed by the massive concrete and granite mausoleum that is the memorial.

The view as currently exists from Southpoint Park.

Click on this link for the full beautiful panoramic effect.

Here is a You Tube video with a 360 degree view from Southpoint Park.

Here is another 360 degree You Tube video of Southpoint Park.

The Kahn supporters claim that memorial opponents are not visualizing the existing drawings, plans and models correctly. They say it takes the eye of an architect or artist to understand that the waterfront and skyline views we all so cherish will not be blocked by the memorial. As soon as the new images of the Kahn/FDR memorial are presented, objections made by common citizens based upon waterfront views being destroyed will be overcome.

Here are the current images of the Kahn/FDR memorial.

Image from Architectural Record

Below image from Cooper Union Exhibit

Image from NY Times

Well, it certainly does not take the eye of an architect or artist to be able to read the following description of the Kahn/FDR memorial which confirms Roosevelt Island residents fear that the Kahn design will in fact, and was intended to, destroy the current one-of-a-kind views of the East River and NYC waterfront from the Southern tip of Southpoint Park.

Here is the unbiased, non-residents description of the Kahn/FDR memorial by Robert McCarter, author of Louis I. Kahn, which has been described as the authoritative text and definitive monograph on the architect Kahn's work.
... To reach the Memorial Room, we would descend gradually through this 350 foot (107 metre) long garden to the point the trees come together, about three-quarters of the way down the Island, where we would enter the narrow plaza connecting the two waterside approaches and the two gardens. All ways now lead across this second smaller, funnel-shaped 115 foot (35 metre) long garden, also defined by two tightly spaced rows of trees on either side which come together at the southern end to frame our view of the statue. We now enter the paved, wedge-shaped, bridge-like forecourt, 50 feet (15 metres) long, into which at the southern end is placed the plinth on which is the stature of Roosevelt. It is in this forecourt that we are given our first- and last- view of the midtown New York Skyline to the west, previously blocked by the trees of the garden, and to be blocked again by the walls of the Memorial room. (emphasis added). We must move around this statue to either left or right and through the 12 foot (3.7 metre) wide opening into the room of the memorial.
No new image that FERI can provide will overcome the fact that the Kahn memorial is designed to cut off and block the existing waterfront views. In the words of Robert McCarter a Louis Kahn admirer:
It is in this forecourt that we are given our first- and last- view of the midtown New York Skyline to the west, previously blocked by the trees of the garden, and to be blocked again by the walls of the Memorial room.
We live in a different world then when Louis Kahn designed this memorial. Cities now recognize how important it is to be connected to their waterfront. It is probable that Kahn would have designed a different memorial today then this relic of the 1970's when there was no residential community on Roosevelt Island. From the NY Times:
"Louis Kahn would have done it differently if he were alive today," said Charles McKinney, the consultant in charge of the Roosevelt Island park proposal for the Trust for Public Land. "He was well known for his concerns about creating communal spaces, and he would have understood the importance of this community's concerns, and he would have responded."
It is extremely important if Roosevelt Islanders want to enjoy unobstructed, beautiful East River waterfront, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens skyline views and the Wild Gardens/Green Rooms designed for Southpoint Park by Trust for Public Lands that you attend this Town Hall meeting. Do not cut Roosevelt Island's Southpoint Park off from the East River!