Past Ideas Resurface at Governors Island

Event: Designing Governors Island: In Conversation and Open House
Location: Van Alen Institute, 06.13.07
Speakers: Raymond Gastil — Director, Manhattan Office, NYC Planning Department; Linda Pollak, AIA, ASLA Associate — partner, Marpillero Pollak Architects; Tracy Metz — author & journalist; Damon Rich — founder and creative director, Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)
Moderator: Chee Pearlman, ISDA — director, Chee Company
Organizer & Sponsor: Van Alen Institute

“Public Property”

How can an ideas competition from over 10 years ago influence current design trends? The “Public Property” competition for Governors Island is one case study.

Courtesy Van Alen Institute

In 1996, the Van Alen Institute hosted “Public Property,” a competition for Governors Island that called for ideas about how the island could be used if it were to become public property. Now that the land is public, and five teams are competing to design the island’s future, panelists convened town-meeting style to discuss the relevance of open ideas competitions in general, and speculate about how the original competition may have influenced current proposals.

Praising the value of ideas competitions, author and journalist Tracy Metz believes the “viral buzz of the Internet” can generate diverse ideas from a broad spectrum of designers and the public. Competitions make sites visible and create dialogue about the site, stated Linda Pollack, AIA, ASLA Associate, partner of Marpillero Pollak Architects. However, it is unfortunate that winning submissions are not always realized, and competition sponsors do not always make this clear to entrants. Competitions for public projects can influence a community creating a forum for the public to communicate how they would like to see their neighborhood developed, according to Damon Rich, founder and creative director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy. Raymond Gastil, Director of the Manhattan Office of the NYC Planning Department, sees competitions as a way to merge the boundaries between the public and designers, allowing design to enhance public space.

After Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg declared Governors Island public property in 2006, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) summoned “visionary ideas to redevelop and preserve” the island. This July, one of the five finalist teams will be selected. As proof of the influence of “Public Property,” it will be interesting to see if ideas presented in 1996 will reappear in the final design.

To see the five finalist proposals, the Center for Architecture and Governors Island are hosting an exhibition, “The Park at the Center of the World: Five Visions for Governors Island” See On View: At the Center for Architecture for more information.