Project Title: Columbus Circle
Location: New York, New York, United States
Built, Unbuilt or Under Construction: Built
Firm Website: www.theolinstudio.com
Project Team Members: Cosentini Associates, L’Observatoire International, Lynch & Associates Ltd., Vollmer Associates, WET Design
Project Description: The plan for Columbus Circle returns this historic monument to public access and appreciation, previously unavailable for over a generation. The design was conceived to secure the site as a safe and attractive addition to the public realm of New York City at one of the principal entrances to Central Park, and at the intersection of three significant streets: Broadway, Eighth Avenue and 59th Street. Its design elements reinforce the basic idea that Columbus Circle is unique in the city.
The island consists of a series of concentric rings that highlight the monument, buffer traffic, and provide a pleasant pedestrian environment through attractively designed and beautifully executed paving, benches, fountains, lights, and a broad, gently raised area of planting. The custom designed benches are scaled to complement the civic space, and are large enough to allow individuals and groups to sit comfortably back to back. The elegant lines of the stone curbs and walls are masterfully crafted.
The boldest design move was to turn the site inside out, functionally and spatially, freeing the monument from the fountain in which it sat. A water feature was instead placed around the perimeter of the central plaza. This way, people can approach the monument—read the inscriptions, study the relief sculptures, sit at its base, and occupy the center of the circle—something that has not been possible in the past. The new perimeter fountain masks the noise of traffic and tempers the climate in the summer. When turned off, the stepped fountain serves as bleacher seats to encourage use of the circle in all seasons and to avoid the typically forlorn character of empty fountains in the winter.
Ultimately, the design highlights the importance of this civic space and monument, and transforms it into an inviting celebratory place for citizens and visitors. It is a place to pause and relax in the midst of one of the busiest intersections in the metropolis.
Image Credits: 1-5: Peter Mauss/Esto; 6-8: David Graham.
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