What meaning is given today to a park created in a city? What uses does it allude to? What connection exists between a park and nature? These questions underlie the reflections on Governors Island. Located not far from Manhattan, Governors Island is an urban island intended for urbanites.
Historically, Governors Island was the residence of British governors of New York. The surface area of the island is large (1.5 kilometers by 800 meters), and Summer Park extends over an area that is not insubstantial (1 kilometer by 700 meters).
The project was focused, not on the idea of installing a false nature to contemplate, in a passive manner, but rather on the invention of a site for exercise, activities, and exchanges.
To create an artificial nature, a décor, would require here, on this site with such a weak embankment, the introduction of large quantities of earth, which is ecologically absurd. Instead, age-old techniques are used at Summer Park, especially techniques prevalent in the U.S.—for example, composting and the rotation of crops. Such practices are known to clean, amend, and restore life back to soil. The proposal improves the site without turning everything upside down.
By relying on rudimentary agricultural practices, Summer Park would immediately acquire meaning and coherence, as well as a familiar and playful architectural quality. Right away, the result would take on the meaning of a physically practicable and understandable space.
A mosaic of meadows and irrigation canals is installed, immediately spectacular and familiar. Superposed on this mosaic is a stratification of layers, of meanings, of nature, and of different rhythms.
At the same time, the spatial structure through the forested areas must be defined. Starting from the Jeffersonian grid, which defines the plan of American cities and districts (everyone has this grid clearly in mind with regard to Manhattan), a matrix is created, which also acts as a development strategy.
Starting from this grid, from this matrix, forested areas of varying density are defined, accommodating solid areas and voids, but also, as an integral part of the project, the many buildings and sports and leisure facilities that will be built on Governors Island. In stark contrast to Central Park, which is a piece of nature contained within a grid, Summer Park stretches its grid to the entirety of the site, and ensures coherence for the whole. This grid is not applied in a strict visual way, since ultimately its contours are destined to blur, even to disappear.
Summer Park is thus an opportunity to use various layers of experimentation, accessible to everyone, linking the rhythms of urban life to those of nature through a landscape structure that is directly inspired by agricultural vocabulary and processes. These proposals could be developed, especially in the United States, to remedy the critical problem of widespread urban sprawl—to re-create density and reinvent quality on these enormous fringes where, without any transition, gigantic housing developments are juxtaposed with endless stretches of extensive industrial farming.
The Trust for Governors Island
MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste
70 ha (172 acres)