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Archive for June, 2015

Teardrop Park

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The day after seeing Four Freedoms Park, I walked along the Hudson River from Battery Park up to the High Line. There are a number of interesting bits of stonework along that stretch of Manhattan including the fort walls at Castle Clinton, the anachronistic Irish Hunger Memorial, and the carefully detailed 911 memorial. I also walked the High Line but its famous plantings were cut back and leafless. It’s a nice site, though, and I enjoyed it even if it wasn’t at it’s horticultural peak. But my favorite spot along the river front was Teardrop Park, a small park with a stone wall about eighteen feet high. Technically the wall is veneer, but it’s built with oversized blocks that make it much cooler than any typical veneer.

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To my surprise, the posted park rules didn’t say anything about prohibiting climbing, so I went up it a few times. It would be too easy with climbing shoes, but in street shoes it was pretty fun.

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The park won an ASLA award a few years ago. The project description called the stone ‘Alcove Blue Stone’; in the Bay Area, the stone’s trade name is Cabernet.

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The diagonal courses of stone are meant to recall geological striations.

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Other areas of the park use the striated stone as well.

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I would have loved this park as a kid, and I heard several different kids cry when they were told it was time to leave.

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A big slide with rocks to climb to reach the top, you can’t get much better than that. A great little park.

Louis Kahn’s Four Freedoms Park

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In April we went to New York for a few days. While we were there I checked out Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, architect Louis Kahn’s final project. It was shelved after his death forty years ago and then recently brought to completion. Basically it’s a 3-walled room made of giant granite blocks at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in the East River. There’s also a giant staircase that goes up to a lawn that then slopes back down to the 3-walled room. Some of it feels pretty silly, but the site has a good view of Manhattan and a nice position at the tip of the island, and the detailing is very perfect and precise.

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Kahn referred to the allees of trees and the raised central lawn as a garden. Not really my idea of a garden, but the goosefoot layout of the paths is borrowed from Versailles, so I guess he’s just got a different thing in mind when he says garden.

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The Roosevelt aspect of the space is a quote carved on one of the blocks of granite and a large floating head that reminded me of Oz the great and powerful.

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The detailing inside the 3-sided room is very tight and the joints in the paving match perfectly with the giant blocks of granite. I’m guessing the buildings wouldn’t have been visible above the granite at the time Kahn was working on the design because they don’t really seem to function as they’re intended, neither screening out the buildings nor acting as a visual plinth for them.

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For some reason the joints are ungrouted. Up close you could see through the open joint between the wall blocks, an interesting detail that probably has some significance that I’m missing.

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In a lot of ways it feels like a memorial to Louis Kahn rather than FDR, and I think it helps if you go into the space already revering Kahn. The New York Times loved it, calling it a ‘monumental triumph for New York and for everyone who cares about architecture and public space.’ (Over to you, Skywalker.) Personally, I’m more impressed with the execution of the design, rather than the design itself, but it’s a nice enough place to go for a view of Manhattan. There’s a video of the park at The Dirt.

— Update March, 2017 — The park is being sued for not being ADA compliant, hugely ironic considering that it supposedly honors a man who was in a wheelchair.

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