Saturday, May 29, 2010

The New Illumination Lawn at Lincoln Center

When Olmsted and Vaux designed Prospect Park in Brooklyn, they recognized their chance to refine or redress some of their efforts in Central Park, whose two large green gathering spaces, The Sheep Meadow and The Great Lawn, are both essentially flat. In Prospect Park, one of the best-loved features then and now, is the Long Meadow, the nearly mile long roll of grassy hills that unfold after the initial entry from Grand Army Plaza. They considered Prospect Park their superior work, as do many landscape architect critics.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro cut out a small section of this undulating Brooklyn icon, and then transported their flying green carpet of grass to the tighter, smaller, higher-built spaces of Manhattan. Here, they placed it on the head of a two story, still unnamed “destination” restaurant in Lincoln Center’s north plaza, and secured it all with a stainless steel hat pin.

Last Friday, this “Short Meadow” of green space opened for public use, finally allowing close-up inspection of what has only been intriguingly visible from a distance or in computer simulated virtual reality.

Photos, details and video after the jump.

The Illumination Lawn is accessible only at its low point north of the reflecting pool. A collection of shallow, widely spaced concrete stairs and a stainless steel handrail ease the transition from the flatness of the plaza to the sharpest rise of the lawn. As the railing and stairs end, the gentler slopes of lawn take over, offering up many choices, as any good garden should do: Walk towards the center and sprawl on your back, choose a left or right peak for a higher vantage point, parade around the entire perimeter for the variety of views, or simply pick the spot least-close to anyone else to relax with your book or catch a quick noon-time nap.
On opening day, arriving after festivities about 4 pm, the major demographic was students freshly out of school, many of them most likely Julliard attendees. They wasted no time in claiming ownership of particular sections, with the most favored location being the high point immediately opposite the entrance. Facing it like sports fans on gymnasium bleachers, kids could cheer and encourage their favorite arrivals, or demonstrate dismissal with the subtle indifference worse than booing: silence. Ah, plus ça change…

Take a walk around. When approaching the northeast corner, at the extreme opposite of the access point from the plaza, one rises up and up, but then actually descends a little from the highpoint, adding an organic floppy-dog-ear ( right) to its echo of the new angular lines of Alice Tully Hall across the street (below).

Over there, the nearly identical angled slope ends not with a playful droop, but with the aggressive edge of a blunt-nosed shark. Concrete tooth-seating in the amphitheater mouth rise all the way up to the top of a final, though smaller peak in this angled trilogy. Here a large spotlight occupies the top step, and illuminates Miss Tully’s overbite in the evening hours (or would, except they have had to fuss with it almost daily since the opening more than a year ago, hence the line-destroying plywood construction fence at its base). If one follows all these not-quite parallel angular lines up to their intersecting point, it seems the angel Moroni is about to get bit! But Alice won’t bother because she knows there’s not much of a meal there. Some would even say he’s bony.

Brand new public vistas are available.
From halfway up the south side of the lawn's incline, listen as Henry says, “Hey Alexander, why don’t you come recline in the water?” Alexander replies, “When are you gonna get outa that pool and buy some tickets from me?”

Most, but unfortunately not all of the omni-present plywood blockade construction fences that have corralled pedestrians in and around Lincoln Center for the past two years have been removed, and each of the renovated sections are now exposed to each other. Some critics have been less than pleased with certain parts of these renovations, believing they don’t relate well to each other, and because of the way movement through the different sections is sometimes more restricted than before.

The original open planter and benches arranged in a grid around the pool have been replaced by this east-west axis, slightly elevated grove. For unfamiliar visitors looking for The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts or Vivian Beaumont Theater, both the extended pool length and the open, clear path to their entrances actually help with wayfinding.

Clearly, these people all seem quite happy restricting their movement for a while in the new grove.

There's plenty more to experience, admire, question and critique about the renovated Lincoln Center; but for now, let's pause here. Check out this short video, intended as panoramic document but quickly hijacked by the silliness of kids being kids - not contemplating the solids, voids, shapes, textures and arrangements of landscape architecture, just enjoying and using this superior green addition to Lincoln Center's back yard.

No comments:

Post a Comment