Architecture Faculty's Firm Wins Unbuilt Design Award

Aerial rendering of a city block with a circular park bounded by a multi-lane roadway.
The St. John's Park project redesigns and reopens a disused New York City park at the Holland Tunnel Exit Plaza in Lower Manhattan. rendering / provided
Oblique view of a proposed city park taking up a city block with curved roadways and green spaces.
One level below ground, interior spaces around the main park serve a variety functions. rendering / provided
The St. John's Park project redesigns and reopens a disused New York City park at the Holland Tunnel Exit Plaza in Lower Manhattan. rendering / provided One level below ground, interior spaces around the main park serve a variety functions. rendering / provided
News
January 15, 2020

A proposal by the firm of Visiting Critic Dasha Khapalova, architecture, has won the Unbuilt — Urban Design category award in the Architect's Newspaper 2019 Best of Design Awards. The project from Ballman Khapalova, cofounded by Khapalova and Peter Ballman, redesigns and reopens a disused New York City park at the Holland Tunnel Exit Plaza.

Located in what is now the Tribeca neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, St. John's Park dates from the early 19th century. Originally called Hudson Square, it was the locus of New York City's first development of townhouses around a private park. By 1827 the neighborhood had become known as St. John's Park after a chapel of nearby Trinity Church. The park later became a freight depot and since 1927 has been the exit for the Holland Tunnel.

Currently, the Holland Tunnel Exit Plaza diverts traffic onto five off-ramps used by 100,000 people daily. The resulting space inside the traffic circle is, according to Ballman Khapalova's proposal abstract, currently "inaccessible, unbuilt, and unbuildable."

"St. John's Park was never accessible to the public, and even before the construction of the Holland Tunnel, the park was private," Khapalova says. "With this project, we are giving the park back to the city."

In the proposal, traffic continues to flow on the existing off-ramps. At the same time, "a continuous loop travels from street level to one level below ground, excavating the center of the site and allowing passage below the existing roadway." The main park at the sunken level measures 300 feet in diameter and is open to the sky. At street level, a series of new playgrounds, lawns, and dog parks surround it. Along the perimeter of the sunken park, interior spaces serve a variety of public and cultural functions.

"The Architect's Newspaper award is an important recognition of the potential of this project to take what the 2010 AIA Guide to New York City referred to as a 'circular wasteland' and turn it into a central, vibrant, and novel public space," says Khapalova.

The design team of Ballman Khapalova, Thornton Tomasetti, Transsolar Klima Engineering, and Sciame Construction, are working toward making St. John's Park a reality.

By Patti Witten

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