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Entering a New Gateway

An international design competition aimed at making a little-used national recreation area accessible to New Yorkers has yielded an unexpected pair of first-place winners: Ashley Scott Kelly and Rikako Wakabayashi, design students who graduated so recently that they don’t yet have their architectural licenses. Wakabayashi will be a first-year student at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) in the fall.

Part of the winning design for the Gateway National Recreational Area
Part of the winning design for the Gateway
National Recreational Area

• Winning designs Page 1 Page 2 Explanation
• Second place designs Page 1 Page 2 Explanation
• Third place designs Page 1 Page 2 Explanation

The pages are in PDF form between 3 and 6 MB

The two beat out more than 100 entries from firms large and small with their design plan for Gateway National Recreation Area. The area encompasses 27,000 acres of wet- lands and wildlife refuge stretching through Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island before ending at a spit of land in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and has largely been neglected since becoming a national park in 1972.

The competition was conceived in a partnership between GSAPP and two other organizations: the Van Alen Institute, which works with civic and community groups to advance design and debate through competitions, publications and exhibitions, and the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group for the National Park Service.

The competition was an outgrowth of talks between the National Parks Conservation Association and GSAPP. Dean Mark Wigley put the association in touch with Sarah Williams, director of GSAPP’s Spatial Information Design Lab, and Kate Orff, who runs its Urban Landscape Lab. Williams’ lab experiments with the representation of digital information and focuses on using mapping and other research techniques. The two labs were instrumental in preparing a 144-page report with background information and analytical work for designers, planners, stakeholders and politicians in hopes of inspiring proposals that could transform the future of Gateway.

Kelly and Wakabayashi, both of Brooklyn, are recent graduates of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. Their plan, “Mapping the Ecotone” calls for a highly visible public infrastructure that creates a microcosm of shifting habitats, a designed strategy of jetties, marshlands and sea level that they call ecotones.

Gateway’s diverse estuarine wildlife habitat is home to more than 330 bird species, and is an important stopover for migratory birds traveling on the Atlantic Americas Flyway. The site is also a fish and shellfish breeding ground—quite a feat, considering that it is situated next to John F. Kennedy International Airport, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of New York.

A 14-member selection jury included Dean Wigley, city officials and world-renowned architects. Second place winner was North Design of Toronto, with its “Reassembling Ecologies” entry. Third place went to three students from Virginia Polytechnic.

- Written by Bridget O'Brian

Published: June 06, 2007
Last modified: Jun 05, 2007