New Design for AIDS Memorial Park Approved!

All images: Studio a + i

At a Community Board  No. 2 meeting last night, the newest designs for New York’s first large-scale AIDS Memorial were approved, concluding a long and convoluted chain of events following the success of the AIDS Memorial Park Competition. That campaign, sponsored by Architizer and Architectural Record and launched last November, asked architects for conceptual designs to fill Triangle Park in Chelsea–which, along with the nearby St. Vincent’s, formed the epicenter of the city’s AIDS epidemic–with a new park, memorial, and museum/educational space. The response was huge, with 475 entries from 26 states and 32 countries pouring in. Brooklyn-based Studio a + i‘s “Infinite Forest”, a thoughtful, autumnal retreat bounded by mirror-faced walls that encircled a micro-forest of white birch trees, emerged as the winner. But things were just getting started.

In March, the City Council and the Rudin Management Company officially sponsorsed the construction of the city’s first proper AIDS memorial at (Rudin-owned) Triangle Park. But there were strings attached–namely, that the scope of the 17,000 square-foot park as envisioned by the competition would be significantly scaled back, jettisoning the Memorial’s museum and landscape features. Studio a + i was asked by developers to retool their design so that it could be integrated into a park plan by landscape architects M. Paul Friedberg and Partners.

Before long, the “Infinite Forest” had been reduced to a tenth of its original size, at which point the architects scrapped the scheme and started anew. They devised a shady 1,600 square-foot steel-and-wood trellis that acts as a portal to the north-west point of the park. As ArchRecord reports, this was the iteration approved by the board yesterday. The airy structure consists of an 18-foot high canopy supported by triangular fins whose faces are planted with ivy and other greenery. The basin is lined with granite pavers, cut in circular patterns and etched with texts furnished by writers and artists, among several others affected by AIDS.

If all goes well, the memorial will break ground next summer and, finally, open in the fall of 2014. Head over to ArchRecord for more renderings and plans.