The urban conception of the Manhattan Island back in 1811 is what is nowadays is being disputed whether it was either the greatest plan grid, or the greatest mistake. For example, there was no space for ‘terrain, shoreline, streams, wetlands, rock outcrops, woodlands, fields or other natural features’, according to Barry Benepe in his critique review on ‘The Greatest Grid’ exhibition in New York. To him, the city was created the following way: ‘a street system drawn by a computer running a program in sleep mode’.

Arch2o-Central Park – The Greatest Grid Revised  Jeffrey Lee + Rui Liu + Tina Qiu  (7)

Courtesy of Jeffrey Lee + Rui Liu + Tina Qiu

What Benepe further criticizes is that: ‘A thoughtful plan would have required real vision and hard work and would have looked at the varied and prominent physical features shaping the island: its hills, valleys, water courses and, most especially, its shoreline.’ This raises the question whether one single Central Park in New York would be enough for the whole city’s living ecosystem.

And this is what the team Jeffrey Lee + Rui Liu + Tina Qiu seek to test with their vertically upward Central Park project. Their concept is to take the park’s rectangular shape and flip it 90 degrees upwards and include it as an intervention piece in the proposed skyscraper. The team has taken a radical approach towards designing a green building – their unusual response is based on the observation that typical skyscraper atriums only serve as ventilation and as an insufficient source of natural light.

Arch2o-Central Park – The Greatest Grid Revised  Jeffrey Lee + Rui Liu + Tina Qiu  (5)

Courtesy of Jeffrey Lee + Rui Liu + Tina Qiu

So instead of including one such typical atrium, the team suggest inserting the vertical Central Park instead and mimic the atrium’s function. In this way, the skyscraper would have vertical sky gardens and can offer private residential space too.

            In a vertical format, the original Central Park’s grid, road penetrations, programmes and features are respectively translated into: The Lake, Open Air Theatre, Theatres on the higher levels, a Swimming Pool, a Running Ramp, a Conservatory Garden and a Ball Games Court on top.

Arch2o-Central Park – The Greatest Grid Revised  Jeffrey Lee + Rui Liu + Tina Qiu  (8)

Courtesy of Jeffrey Lee + Rui Liu + Tina Qiu

Having in mind that such a project can defy architectural norms and set new standards, it has the potential of becoming the contemporary ideal of Le Corbusier’s perception of building-nature relationship. Benepe backs up the new skyscraper project’s grid inspiration – “This is the same clarity that was admired by the French planner and architect, Le Corbusier, discussed in “When the Cathedrals Were White: Voyage to the Land of the Timid”.  As Le Corbusier concludes, “Height is a thing beautiful in itself”. And it indeed seems like Jeffrey Lee + Rui Liu + Tina Qiu have successfully managed to achieve a functional and dynamic vertical aggregation of volumes by flipping Central Park vertically.

By Yoana Chepisheva

Courtesy of Jeffrey Lee + Rui Liu + Tina Qiu

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