An oasis in the middle of New York City, public parkland in Randall’s Island comprises most of the island in the East River, between East Harlem, the South Bronx and Astoria, Queens. The redevelopment of this important public park is the largest city-funded initiative dedicated towards improving sports fields and recreation facilities in over a century.

Global Architecture & Design Awards 2018
First Award | Category: Urban Design (Built)

Architects: Ricardo Zurita Architecture & Planning, P.C.
Country: United States

The Randall’s Island Park Alliance (RIPA) was established to revive the park, and began working  alongside the City of New York and the Department of Parks & Recreation to develop sports and recreational facilities, improve parkland, increase the quantity and quality of playing fields, locate revenue generating recreational concessions, provide comfort amenities for visitors, accommodate non-park facilities, reincorporate non-park land to the park, and to restore its natural environment. The Architect was retained by RIPA and has maintained an ongoing collaboration since to assist in the creation of a redevelopment plan to address the aforementioned issues. In the subsequent years this plan has been largely realized including several buildings—a stadium, tennis center and comfort stations—which the Architect also designed and implemented.

The master plan for Randall’s Island Park establishes a set of principles to which the elements of the program respond. The core intention is to develop strategies that can generate experiential cohesion of the park while addressing the park’s largest challenge—its physical fragmentation.

The design originates from a superimposition of macro-systems that blur the distinction between artificial elements such as the playing fields and buildings, with the natural landscape. A north-south organizing grid derived from Manhattan’s grid is superimposed on the island to provide a reference for gauging distances, and to allow for the organization and orientation of regulation sports fields. The interstices of the grid locate park buildings or amenities. When possible, buildings are placed away from the bridges allowing views from the central circulation spine to the surrounding rivers. Major buildings are located against non-park buildings to create an edge between the fields and non-park buildings which serve as a backdrop to the new fields. Major vehicular circulation occurs via a central north-south road with large parking areas organized along its length with narrow, meandering roads accessing areas of playing fields. A perimeter bicycle and pedestrian path also circulates around the edge of the island.

Environmental stewardship and positive community impact were crucial aims in the development of the plan. Environmental strategies implemented involve Environmental Restoration Programs including pathways, gardens, landscaping and reclamation, island wildlife and wetlands restoration. The social function of the project is implicit in its programmatic function: to first and foremost serve the public and local communities, especially the children of New York City, in a way that promotes active and healthy lifestyles via the development of this vast park and the high-quality sports and recreational facilities within. Since the plan’s implementation, the park has been a pre-eminent destination for sports, recreation and park-going for users from all walks of life, and has been wonderfully received by the surrounding communities and city at large.

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