Morphing a Linear Cityscape

By Emma Lyne Pouch

            When I think of a landscape it is a view to vast, open spaces and scenery for miles and miles with varying greenery scattered throughout. Landscapes are spaces that are meant to be enjoyed at a slow place and inflict different emotions upon those who experience it. But what happens when you are surrounded in a city of millions of people where high rises are the view for miles. The idea of landscapes we originally formed in our heads has been transformed to something far different. Now we see architecture and find beauty in it instead of greenery. In these landscapes we lose the rebirth that comes with the changing of seasons and overtime the city areas’ quality diminishes. It is in these places that we have to step in and form new ideas and plans for a city.
            In New York City we find a division of spaces designated by the five boroughs all connected by bridges, tunnels and busy streets.  These elements form a moving landscape that take us through the city and allow us to see and experience the architecture at a different pace. In the late 1990s the Van Alen Prize in Public Architecture held a competition to redesign New York’s East River, taking it from overlooked to a highlight and vital space in the identity of New York City. The winner was Reiser and Umemoto whose “project proposed submerging parts of FDR Drive in order to create a continuous, linear park where the East River meets Manhattan.” This plan would bring together the diverse vehicular, pedestrian, commercial, and cultural infrastructures in a twisting manner that corresponds with the rise and fall of the FDR. The incorporation of public programming in the space breaks down space yet leaves it with the same continuing flow.
            It is this division that gives the area meaning and purpose. This theme has been studied and continues to be prevalent through design in architecture and landscape so it makes sense to see it occur when we study landscapes that are solely architecture based. In this proposal by Reiser and Umemoto we find the transition between the high speed of FDR and the low speed of the city grid. The two are interwoven in a way that the people occupying the space feel like they are part of something instead of a second thought to the traffic of the city. Those interacting with this stretch of the city can experience moments that are organized along the linear urban morphology whether they are walking along the street or merely passing by in the car.
            Reiser and Umemoto’s design revitalized a space that was once over looked and thought of as the grime of a city plan. Today the area of the East River Park allows for people to experience different views contrasting the powerful architectural designs to the traffic flow of the city and the water of the harbor along a single stretch. No longer is it a boring drive to work but a moving landscape that frames a view of a one of kind city.


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