St. John’s Park, New York, New York St. John’s Park is the terminus of the Holland Tunnel and entry to Manhattan, passed through by 100,000 people per day. The rotary distributes traffic into five directions using five offramps. Because of this complex traffic pattern, the center of the site remains inaccessible, unbuilt and unbuildable. St. John’s Park is permanently closed to the public. This proposal is generated from the geometry of the existing offramps, so that tunnel traffic may continue unimpeded. A continuous loop travels from street level to one level below ground, excavating the center of the site and allowing pedestrian passage below the existing roadway. The loop structure defines and interconnects all of the elements and activities of the new St. John’s Park, from the roadways to interior and exterior program spaces.
At street level the loop creates a series of small parks protected from traffic: intimate piazzas, wild gardens, dog parks, and playgrounds. For cars, the walls that protect the parks frame the moment of entry into the city, reminiscent of Richard Serra’s Arc sculpture installed on the site from 1983-1987. Staircases from the street lead down to the central Sunken Park and the Wellness Center that surrounds it. Serving as a neighborhood square, the Sunken Park is both a destination and a point of connection between different parts of the neighborhood. It is 300 feet in diameter and open to the sky, planted with the native vegetation of Manahatta. During downpours it acts as a bioswale, and various water features interact with the groundwater on the site. The Wellness Center is at the perimeter of the park, occupying the sheltered space below the offramps. Much as St. John’s Chapel was once the focal point and anchor of the neighborhood, the Wellness Center is a place for the community to gather, to learn, and to find balance. Inside, lit with skylights from the parks above, there are spaces for mind, body, and spirit such as yoga studios, lecture halls, and a bath house.
From providing places for family and play, to forming a reprieve from the city, to a direct focus on healing through the Wellness Center, the new St. John’s Park becomes a unique and vital antidote to the stresses of life in the city.
St. John’s Park was awarded the 2019 Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Award for Unbuilt—Urban Design.