Erm... what have they done to Central Park?

Winning plan for urban oasis proposes a horizontal 'sidescraper' underneath newly landscaped rocks and foliage
New York Horizon - Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu
New York Horizon - Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu

Two design graduates have reimagined New York City’s Central Park as a vast sunken wilderness. Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu’s plan, called New York Horizon, involves stripping back the park’s controlled environment to its bedrock, creating a ‘wild’ landscape of hills, lakes and meadows; not unlike how Central Park’s original 1850s landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calver Vaux found the place in fact.

The big difference of course is Sun and Wu's plan to add a below-grade mix-use complex of housing, workspaces, shops and cultural venues. Their proposal has won a skyscraper ideas competition organized by the US architecture magazine eVolo. Now in its tenth year, the 2016 Skyscraper Competition “recognizes visionary ideas for building high,” says eVolo, “projects that challenge the way we understand vertical architecture and its relationship with the natural and built environments.”

"We came up with the idea that returns the park to its natural state, when Manhattan once looked more like this - a rugged, bedrock-­strewn landscape," say Sun and Wu, both recent graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design.


New York Horizon - Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu
New York Horizon - Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu

The mega-structure would be 30m deep and 304m tall, and would follow the park’s perimeter, creating a horizontal skyscraper and “space along the new cliff". The whole 843-acre space would be surrounded by a mirrored wall, increasing its apparent size yet further.

Apart from creating a lot of surplus soil (which would be distributed around New York’s neighbourhoods), the objective is to make Central Park accessible to more people. At the moment, only tourists and residents in its immediate proximity make much use of it.

And rather than just the tame pursuits of rollerblading or walking the dog, the designers envisage the idea of active types hiking, climbing and swimming in their new Manhattan terrain.


New York Horizon - Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu
New York Horizon - Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu

Evolo's Skyscraper Competition attracted a lot of interesting thinking and innovative ideas. Second place in the competition went to a plan for a control terminal for drones in New York while third place went to a high rise data centre of servers kept cool in the wilds of Iceland.

But for buildings of an entirely different scale check out our new books Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things, Jutaku - a selection of small and impermanent Japanese houses and the truly awesome This Brutal World a compendium of the best brutal architecture built around the world. You can read A Movement in a Moment, our short guide to Brutalism here

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