CFAF Takes an Insider's Tour of Kahn's FDR Four Freedoms Park

Gina Pollara, executive director of the Four Freedoms Park, guided visitors through the construction site (left). John Kurtz, AIA, partner at Mitchell | Giurgola Architects, described the acquisition and placement of the granite for the southernmost point of the monument.

Catherine Teegarden

The Center for Architecture Foundation’s tour series New Buildings New York took participants to the southern tip of Roosevelt Island to visit the last piece of undeveloped land on the island. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park was designed by Louis Kahn in honor of President Roosevelt after the island’s name was changed from Welfare to Roosevelt Island. Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor John V. Lindsay announced the project in 1973, and Kahn completed the design before his death in 1974. The project was shelved by the city until recently, when the Roosevelt Institute in partnership with NYC and NY State were able to raise the funds and resurrect the project. Construction of the Park began in March 2010 and scheduled to open in Fall 2012, will be the only work of Kahn’s in NYC.

Participants met at the Roosevelt Island Historical Society Visitors Center kiosk for a guided walk of Roosevelt Island’s architectural and historical landmarks, led by CFAF staff and volunteers. The group was greeted at the construction site by Gina Pollara, executive director of FDR Four Freedoms Park, and John Kurtz, AIA, partner at Mitchell | Giurgola Architects, which is acting as the architect-of-record for the current construction.

Pollara explained the development of the project over the last 30 years, and the symbolic significance of both the park and its relationship to the United Nations across the East River. Four Freedoms refers to Roosevelt’s seminal speech underlying essential freedoms to which all people should have access (freedom of speech and worship, and freedom from want and fear).

Kurtz then provided a detailed explanation about the execution and construction of the project, including “The Room,” a contemplative space at the end of the monument and island that overlooks the U.N., the East River, and other neighboring boroughs. The large blocks of granite, with their precise geometry and reflective surfaces against the water and sun, reinforce Kahn’s intentions to create a civic space for reflection.

Funds raised from the tour helped to support the Center for Architecture Foundation’s Programs@theCenter — interactive gallery tours and hands-on workshops designed to engage youth and families in contemporary topics about the built environment.

The Foundation thanks Pollara and Kurtz for volunteering their time to lead the tour, as well as to CFAF Board Member Carol Loewenson, AIA, and volunteer Marie-Louise Gelså Skanderup for coordinating the event.

For those who are interested in Louis Kahn, the Center for Foundation will be presenting the premiere screening of ARCHITECT, a chamber opera based on his life and work. The film tells Kahn’s story through original music accompanied by photographs, video, and paintings created specifically for the film. The fundraiser will take place at the Center for Architecture on 11.17.11, 6:00-8:00pm. For more information about the Foundation’s exhibitions, events, and education programs, visit http://www.cfafoundation.org.