Reinventing Grand Army Plaza

In the spring of 2008, the Design Trust for Public Space and the Grand Army Plaza Coalition launched an ideas competition to generate new visions for New York’s “greatest unrealized asset.”

Here we explore the site’s challenges, opinions held and design strategies proposed. The Reinventing Grand Army Plaza ideas competition resulted in over 200 proposals — from the feasible to the fantastic — submitted from around the world. A distinguished independent jury judged the submissions through an anonymous review, and selected the top 30 proposals to be included in the public exhibit along with the four prizewinning designs. Here, we present a series of audio interviews with competition jurors and a video that illuminates the ideas competition and the challenges and opportunities of the site. Grand Army Plaza stands where several Brooklyn neighborhoods, municipal jurisdictions, and ideas of public space converge. Our intention in exploring this process is to help the reimagining process move from the idea generation phase to the community engagement process. This video evokes the grandeur of the site while bearing witness to the diverse and strongly held opinions on the site’s past, present and future, from residents, passersby and designers.

Juror Interviews: For the ideas competition, the Design Trust assembled an influential panel of experts – architects, landscape architects, planners, civil servants, transportation engineers, and cultural entrepreneurs – to evaluate proposals from across the world. Here we hear in each juror’s own words the principles, assumptions and priorities that each brought to bear on this process. They reflect on issues as diverse as traffic flow, gentrification, the nature of leisure and the role of design competitions in general, offering a selection of the issues at play in discussion of public space in the 21st century.


Elizabeth Streb, Founder, Streb Lab for Action Mechanics

“Just as there are environmentally sustainable experts at the table, we need culturally sustainable experts at the table.”[audio:]
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Ellen Salpeter, Executive Director, Heart of Brooklyn

“Flights of fancy inform a pragmatic design process in a delightful way.”[audio:]
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Milton Puryear, Executive Director, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative

“This city is unique in the amount that people walk.”[audio:]
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Alexandros Washburn, Chief Urban Designer, New York City Department of City Planning

“Whatever we do in the city, it is ultimately the public space that’s judged.”[audio:]
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Ken Smith, Landscape Architect

“Landscape architects have become more interested in infrastructure, to see how we can embed landscape into the body of infrastructure.” [audio:]
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Ben Perez, Urban Planner

“It’s a very large piece of transportation infrastructure with very large ribbons of park in and around it.”[audio:]
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The Design Trust for Public Space received over 200 competition submissions from twenty-five countries for Reinventing Grand Army Plaza. Out of a pool of thirty finalists, two first prize winners were chosen in an unbreakable tie for first place along with second and third prize selections. Twenty-six received honorable mentions. From September 13 to October 13, 2008, these thirty visionary plans were on view in a free, open-air public exhibition designed by Pentagram in the center of the Plaza.

Click through the following pages to view the submissions from competition finalists.

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One Response to “Reinventing Grand Army Plaza”

  1. John F. Kennedy says:

    I would like to see my bust returned to G.A.P. It was a source of joy for many neighbors and was removed by the Parks Dept. when the plaza was renovated 5 years ago.

    I would hate for my bust to sit in some Commissioner’s office for 25 years before it was rightfully returned. See Fort Green Park Eagles.

    Return JFK’s bust today!

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