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.

Just as there are environmentally sustainable experts at the table, we need culturally sustainable experts at the table.

Elizabeth Streb, Founder, Streb Lab for Action Mechanics

Flights of fancy inform a pragmatic design process in a delightful way.

Ellen Salpeter, Executive Director, Heart of Brooklyn

This city is unique in the amount that people walk.

Milton Puryear, Executive Director, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative

Whatever we do in the city, it is ultimately the public space that’s judged.

Alexandros Washburn, Chief Urban Designer, New York City Department of City Planning

Landscape architects have become more interested in infrastructure, to see how we can embed landscape into the body of infrastructure.
It’s a very large piece of transportation infrastructure with very large ribbons of park in and around it.

Ben Perez, Urban Planner


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 slideshows to view the submissions from competition finalists.

Reinventing Grand Army Plaza: First Prize (Tie)

Please Wake Me Up!
Gauthier le Romancer and Guillaume Derrien
Paris, France

Anne-Sophie Coué, Christian Matteau, Chrystelle Sanaa and Stephane Mauget
Nantes, France

Reinventing Grand Army Plaza: Second Prize

Urban Stripes
Andras Jambor and Vincent Hertenberger
Paris, France

Reinventing Grand Army Plaza: Third Prize

A Center for Brooklyn
James Garrison, Brandt Graves, Simon Kristak, Vanessa Moon, Tim Peterson, Sal Tranchina,
Aaron Tweedie, Darshin Van Parijs, Elliot White and Michael King (Nelson/Nygaard)
Garrison Architects
Brooklyn, New York

Reinventing Grand Army Plaza: Honorable Mentions

Anchoring Grand Army Plaza
Emilie Graham
New York, NY, USA

The Aqua Plaza: An Idea for a New Urban
Hydro-Scape Typology
Eugene Kwak, Phanat Sonemangkhala
Phanat Xanamane Studio
New York, NY, USA

Back to the Island
Johannes Neumann
Architektur Neumann
Hagen, Germany

Brooklyn Green Continuum: A Resilient Urban Plaza
Flora Chen
Jersey City, NJ, USA

City & Park Meet on Slope’s Venues
Jean-Baptiste Cueille
Paris, France

Community Commons
Jordi Safont-Tria, Lorna Asseo, Ricardo Zurita,
Sandra Pires, Til Globig
Zurita Architects
New York, NY, USA

Conducting Landscapes
Tyler Caine, Antonio Dellomo, Shelby Doyle,
Brandon Specketer
New York, NY, USA

Counter Slope
Na Sun, Xinghua Zhao
Jersey City, NJ, USA

Curano Cor
Andrew Sullivan
San Francisco, CA, USA

Cut + Occupy
Joshua Barkan
New York, NY, USA

GAP Amplification G.A.P.
Animesh Nayak, J. Arthur Liu, Vishwadeep Deo
Brooklyn, NY, USA

Rebecca Kainer
Philadelphia, PA, USA

Grand Army Plaza: Gateway to Brooklyn
Asaf Yogev, Craig Tooman
Cutsogeorge Tooman & Allen Architects, P.C.
New York, NY, USA

Grand Prospect Park
Gilat Lovinger
Brooklyn, NY, USA
Green Army Plaza
Michael Arad
Handel Architects
New York, NY, USA

Caterina Roiatti, Robert Traboscia, Angela Amoia, Jason
Atkins, Dennis Mendoza, Chun Fang Huang, Kellen
Giuda, Sebastian Del Castillo
TRA Studio
New York, NY, USA

The Historical Strip and the Activity Slopes
Hugues Leclercq
aotu architecture office ltd.
Shanghai, China

Making Connections in the Big Heart
Diane Klein, Matthew Moore
Hipbone Design LLC
New York, NY, USA

A Parade for Brooklyn: Cultivating Local Flavor for Grand
Army Plaza
Lori Marie Gibbs, Shin-pei Tsay
Brooklyn, NY, USA

Parkbridge on Top of Superoval
Martin Knuijt
OKRA Landschapsarchitecten
Utrecht, The Netherlands

Plaza Street
Daniel Gonzalez Brenes, Mary Lydecker
Somerville, MA, USA

Prospect on Structure
Ashley Kelly
Brooklyn, NY, USA

Raised Edges
Tsutomu Bessho
Forest Hills, NY, USA

SPLAT (Social Platform for Living, Arts, & Theater)
Dan Maxfield, James Biber, James Bowman
Pentagram Architects
New York, NY, USA

Urban Island or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and
Love Flatbush Ave.
Babak Bryan, Jake LaChapelle
Brooklyn, NY, USA

Winning Back G.A.P.
Paul Quilligan
Quilligan Architects
Dublin, Ireland

Urban Omnibus would like to thank:
Michael Cairl
Deborah Marton
Ben Perez
Milton Puryear
Ellen Salpeter
Ken Smith
Elizabeth Streb
Alexandros Washburn
Design Trust for Public Space
and all the entrants to the ideas competition

The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.


John F. Kennedy January 8, 2009

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!