In 30 years, more than 100,000 New York City men, women and children died from AIDS. To honor the victims and “celebrate the efforts of the caregivers and activists who responded to this health crisis,” a group of artists, health care providers, historians, family members, and neighbors formed the New York City AIDS Memorial Park Campaign. The campaign argues that New York City still doesn’t have a public AIDS memorial so a new park is needed to provide “a much-needed inspirational, educational, and green public oasis for the city and surrounding community.”
In NYC’s West Village, just a few blocks from Chelsea, on a 16,000-square-feet triangle of land between West 12th and Greenwich Avenue, a new park will take shape. The campaign writes: “The cultural significance of this site cannot be overstated; it stands at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in New York City through its adjacency to the former St. Vincent’s Hospital. St. Vincent’s is the single site most associated with the AIDS crisis in New York City. The hospital figures prominently in The Normal Heart, Angels in America, As Is and other important pieces of literature and art that narrate the stories of the plague years in New York. The area is also in close proximity to the LGBT Community Center, where ACT-UP and other AIDS advocacy/support groups first organized.”
The site will need to function both as a working park and memorial. The park needs to be designed for both passive and active recreation for the surrounding “park-starved neighborhood” and include a “below-grade” space used as a learning center to “exhibit the history and facts of the ongoing epidemic.” The site will need to “creatively and comprehensively integrate the important commemorative narrative into the fabric and essence of the park to create a living memorial” while seamlessly offering access to the below-grade learning center. In addition, this public space will need to be accessible and usable by all, maximize planted areas and gardens, and provide ample seating and walkways.
The existing triangular site is challenge: bound by two subway train lines, its below-grade space is “raw,” meaning a mess. “Issues of access, egress, locating mechanical and HVAC equipment, and bringing daylight to the below-grade space must all be addressed.” A whole bunch of old equipment, including a loading dock, medical gas storage tanks, will need to be cleared for the new park. On top of this, all park plans need to be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission because the site is in the Greenwich Village Historic District.
The prestigious jury includes Ken Smith, ASLA, Ken Smith Workshop; Michael Arad, Partner, Handel Architects, and designer of the National September 11 memorial; Bary Bergdoll, Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art; Elizabeth Diller, Diller, Scofidio + Renfro; Robert Hammond, Founder, Friends of the High Line; and other high-profile architects, artists, activists, and journalists.
The winner will receive $5,000 and the runner-up will receive $2,000. Selected submissions will be exhibited at a Manhattan gallery. It costs $50 to submit an entry. It’s not clear whether the winning design will translate into an actual park as the future of the site is still in contention.
Also, another NYC ideas competition is seeking entries: Reimagining the Waterfront aims to find the best ideas for creating a new East River waterfront park and kick-start the transformation of the “entire East River pedestrian experience.” Submit concepts by January 15, 2012.
Image credits: NYC AIDS Memorial Park Design Competition