An aquarium, a wind farm, and an artificial alpine environment are among a group of eye-catching proposals that reimagine a 11-block stretch of medians along Manhattan’s Park Avenue. These were recently shared as shortlists for a competition that asked entrants to spruce up and enliven the traditional New York City boulevard. Sponsored by real estate company Fisher Brothers, the contest served as a creative, speculative exercise, and it gave applicants a rare treat: freedom to disregard conventional design restrictions such as zoning codes, cost, and weight limits.
This led, of course, to fantastic results, as evidenced by the 17 finalists, which a jury selected from a pool of nearly 150 entries.
The aquarium, designed by Eric Spencer, and the towering scaffold meant to resemble a mountain (complete with waterfalls), envisioned by ATYPE Architecture, are among the most outlandish of this group. Another proposal, by Michelle Schrank, imagines a 18-hole minigolf course safely wedged between the roads — a playground among skyscrapers. Another, by Harrison Green, cooks up the possibility of a strip of undomesticated forest. One plan even calls for an enclosed river to flow down Park Avenue, which kayakers or ice hockey players can enjoy depending on the season.
While these renderings are fun to examine and imagine in full-scale, there’s a very tangible treat for the designers whose visions resonate most with the competition’s call. The eight-member jury — which includes artist Jon Kessler and Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism — will select a winner to receive a $25,000 prize. People can also vote for their favorite design until Friday, March 9, and the winner of this popular vote will receive a $5,000 prize.
“While there is not a plan in place to install the winning design, the hope is that the competition sparks the conversation about what can be done to enliven the centerline,” a spokesperson for the contest told Hyperallergic. The competition is similar to the one launched by the Friends of the High Line in 2003, as Winston Fisher, a partner in Fisher Brothers, told the New York Times. That contest, too, received absurd entries, most notably a mile-and-a-half-long swimming pool and a roller coaster.
While Fisher Brothers owns buildings along Park Avenue, it does not control the medians it chose for the competition, which run between 46th and 57th Streets. It’s ultimately up to the city to decide whether it wants to draw any inspiration from these proposals, or to let them simply be as pipe dreams.