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.
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
Jun 05, 2007