09. December 2011 / Jessica Bridger
Book Review: Gateway: Visions for an Urban National Park
Wild urban nature is not the image that immediately springs to mind when most people consider New York City and its metropolitan area. Yet stretches of wild vegetation, diverse animal habitat, sandy shorelines and more “nature” make up a sizable and important part of the city and surroundings. Gateway National Park, part of the US government’s National Park system, is composed of islands, coast and marshes in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and northern New Jersey.
Gateway National Park is in dire need of attention, in the form of preservation, conservation and restoration. At the same time Gateway needs to be rethought to fit into the New York of the 21st century. In recognition of Gateway’s unique status in New York, the Van Alen Institute and Columbia University launched the Envisioning Gateway design competition in 2007. Gateway: Visions for an Urban National Park, published by the Van Alen Institute and Princeton University Press, is a record of the outstanding competition entries, as well as critical essays, a photo essay and satellite images of Gateway and the surrounding areas and waterways.
The large format book is sensibly laid out and the image quality throughout is impressive. It is hoped that the book will serve to heighten awareness of Gateway National Park and the changes that should be enacted to ensure its continued existence. It is also hoped that more general conclusions about the function of urban wild spaces can be inferred. It is certain that the book is a graphic reminder of the complexities of the urban conditions in New York. The urban is not only glass and asphalt, and perhaps the 21st century understanding of our cities will include their surrounding environments.
Gateway: Visions for an Urban National Park
Alexander Brash, Jamie Hand, and Kate Orff, eds. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011 ($60.00). Design: Elizabeth Azen/EA Projects, New York.