Cartilage: Kowsky Plaza


No one really believes anymore that the city is like a human body, with every component represented. Particularly in New York, despite the fact that Central Park was created out of the idea that New York needed lungs.

Yet the metaphor may have some life left in it yet. I cannot believe I just wrote that.

Yesterday I toured two projects with Mark Yoes, designed by he and his partner Claire Weisz. Both projects are connective tissue in the city, in two very different ways.

First is Kowsky Plaza, a public space wedged between the walkway at the southern edge of Battery Park City's marina and Gateway Plaza, the one complex of concrete towers built before Polshek Partnership's multibrick decoration guidelines took over. The plaza is above what used to be the river water cooling pumps for the Twin Towers. The pumps are still operational, awaiting new buildings before possible reactivation.


The original plaza was one of the first to be built in BPC, and as such is the first public space to be renovated in BPC. The architects turned a re-roofing project into a way to provide more amenities to the residents of Gateway Plaza: shade, dog run, and playground. An inverted truss of ipe (Brazilian Walnut) marks the one place the architects could actually build. The materials are typical BPC hardscape, alone with plantings reflecting the current taste in ornamental grasses. A piece of the Berlin Wall occupies a corner near one of the Gateway buildings, unceremoniously fenced in by police fence. Battery Park City: the neighborhood irony forgot.


During my tour, I found it difficult to determine what the boundaries of the project were. I kept mistaking the architect's work for something they had knitted into their project. The NYPD Memorial was done by someone else 10 years earlier. A granite curb adjacent to the marina was altered by Weisz+Yoes to allow for a wider Promenade by the marina, but the only evidence it was altered is a change in color in asphalt paving blocks. After a while I gave up. It was clear I was missing the point.


The architects had created a very important, but small, piece of connective tissue between the marina and the greenscape immediately to the south, a component of an urban joint. Like cartilage: a small piece of flesh with a huge function. Cushion the joint, make it comfortable to walk the distance.


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