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Events October 2011


Roosevelt Island: New Town in Town

October 9, 2011

DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State is sponsoring a tour of Roosevelt Island in New York City’s East River, one of America's prime accomplishments in Modern urban design, as part of DOCOMOMO US Tour Day 2011. This mid-river sliver of land was identified in 1969 as the location for an unprecedented “new town in town,” the most ambitious effort of the New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC).

An initial master plan by Philip Johnson and John Burgee laid out Main Street as the spine of the new community. Its most distinctive buildings, completed in the mid-1970s, include residential complexes designed by Johansen & Bhavnani and by Sert, Jackson & Associates, which step up in height from the riverfront to as much as 22 stories along Main Street. The 19th-century Chapel of the Good Shepherd was restored by architect Giorgio Cavaglieri as a landmark feature of the central plaza. A prominent concrete-framed parking garage was designed by Kallman & McKinnell. Landscape architects Lawrence Halprin and Dan Kiley contributed to the island's ample public spaces.

The most dramatic route to the island is the aerial tramway from Manhattan's East Side, inaugurated in 1976 and thoroughly modernized in 2010. A subway stop and a vehicular bridge from Queens are the only other means of access. A unique pneumatic tube trash collection system has operated since 1975.

Further construction over the past two decades, including a new public school and residential reuse of a historic hospital, has increased Roosevelt Island's population to about 12,000, making possible a greater range of shops and other services for its residents. Louis Kahn's 1974 proposal for a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt is only now being constructed at the south tip of the island.

Among the architects and island residents briefing tour participants will be Theodore Liebman, who was UDC's Chief of Architecture during the establishment of the island's unique urban concept and its most architecturally distinguished buildings. Ashok Bhavnani will address the island's development as the architect of some its most exemplary buildings and public spaces. The tour will include visits to architecturally distinctive interiors in at least one of the island's residential structures, as well as those of the sports and parking complexes.

Sunday October 9, 2:00 - 4:30 pm
$15 DOCOMOMO members; $25 non-members
Register now via NY Charities:

panorama photo: Greg Goodman, Roosevelt Island Photography

© Greg Goodman
Roosevelt Island Street view
© John Arbuckle


Week of October 9th