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St. John’s Park, New York, New York

As a piece of infrastructure inserted into an existing city fabric, St. John’s Park can be understood both at the scale of the neighborhood and at the scale of the city. A four-acre empty space sitting between Soho and Tribeca, the park has the potential to be a significant urban space and connector for residences and business in the immediate vicinity. As the terminus of the Holland Tunnel and entry to Manhattan, passed through by over 100,000 people per day, it is a node in a transportation network that connects the Five Boroughs. Potentially, something that happens in St. Johns Park could resonate throughout the rest of New York.

Currently, however, St. John’s park is a dead zone. Entering the site from the north, the main Holland Tunnel exit distributes traffic into five directions using five different ramps, cutting the site into awkward traffic islands and severing connection between the residual space at the center and the perimeter streets. Because of the difficult morphology of these ramps and islands, the site remains inaccessible, unbuilt and unbuildable. Whereas most other open spaces of equivalent size throughout the city are dedicated either to green space or street life, St. John’s Park remains permanently closed to the public.

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Our proposal for a new St. John’s Park creates a two-story form that is generated directly by the geometry of the existing offramps, so that Holland Tunnel traffic may continue unimpeded by the new park. The proposed intervention is a continuous loop that travels from street level to one level below ground, excavating the center of the site and allowing passage below the existing roadway. While the current condition forces pedestrian traffic to circulate around the offramps that occupy the site, the new proposal allows pedestrians to move freely in all directions through the park – below the roadway but open to the sky above – and creates place of connection between surrounding neighborhoods.

The park is composed of multiple parts that exist at and below street level. Central to the form are the existing Tunnel offramps and surrounding buildings that create a frame for the park (and which have the potential to connect to the park physically and programmatically). At street level along the new perimeter is a series of new small parks consisting of playgrounds, lawns, seating areas, and dog parks. Grand staircases connect the street to the park below, passing beneath the existing offramps. At the center is the main park, 300’ in diameter and open to the sky. At the perimeter of the park and below the street are interior spaces that can serve a variety of functions, enriching and defining the park experience: movie theaters, auditoriums, galleries, library, retail, restaurants, etc.

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Project Year: 2018 (ongoing)
Project Phase: Concept Proposal
Project Team: Peter Ballman and Dasha Khapalova, Wendolin Gonzalez