Art

The Magic of Jean Nouvel’s Carousel Fun House

Approaching Fulton Landing from the East River Jean Nouvel’s new pavilion for Jane’s Carousel is less impressive than I was expecting. The squat box made of what I initially thought was transparent glass and sea-foam green metal appears dwarfed by the massive Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges that bracket it on either side. My initial reactions from a distance were mostly negative. The thick roof seemed heavy and cumbersome. The pavilion, particularly when the retractable doors are closed, feels unfinished. I don’t know why I expected this glass pavilion to be as sleek and transparent as the Fifth Avenue Apple Store, but I did. Even Philip Johnson’s Glass House visually seemed more weightless than this.

Approaching the pavilion from land was different. The roof was less distracting and the mirrored ceiling drew you in. Two of the four walls are retractable and when they’re opened they seem to echo the massive piers of the neighboring bridges. The solid curtain walls are stunning. They reflect the world around the riverfront park. This is a charmed location. Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, sandwiched between their namesake bridges and on the edge of some of the city’s most storied and expensive neighborhoods, Jane’s Carousel is sure to be a beloved spot for children, lovers and urban explorers. If DUMBO lacked a destination site, the Tobacco Factory never quite cut it, then it has one now. That’s not to say the structure is perfect, but it is endearing,

What I didn’t expect was Nouvel’s playful interior. Surprisingly, the transparent walls are not glass but acrylic and, incase you were wondering, Nouvel has dismissed concerns that the acrylic walls will yellow and scratch with time. What he did get in return for using the cheaper material was a fascinating distortion that is most noticeable when you stand in the structure and look out. Like the mirrors in a fun room, the lines ripple and wave, creating a sense of whimsy perfectly suited to a carousel.

Nouvel told Curbed that he hoped Jane’s Carousel would become “a fragile little monument in the city.” I can see it become more than that. This is the kind of place that makes you makes you remember why living in a city can feel magical, particularly when the day turns to night and the city’s lights are reflected on the water all around. I will return to this spot often.

Jane’s Carousel is located in the DUMBO section of the Brooklyn Bridge Park (on the Brooklyn side of the East River, between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges). Hours and direction can be found at janescarousel.com.

All photos by the author using Instagram

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