In the summer, Dilworth Plaza offers a sunken oasis from the traffic surrounding City Hall. Its graceful arches and stepped fountains interact with the three dimensionality of the space.With some federal dollars burning a hole in the city's pocket, critics and architects have swiftly praised a handful of shortsighted designs without closely looking at the resource we already have.
What is wrong with Dilworth Plaza? In a word: Nothing. At least nothing in regard to the design of the space. Which, if we should be replacing it, should be our foremost concern. After all, if the problem with Dilworth Plaza were its element, and not its architecture, shouldn't we be addressing that first?
But Dilworth Plaza is well designed. It compliments its surrounding property in both its form and materials. It's recessed seating area offers a quiet oasis to lunch away from the noisy traffic around City Hall, and offers a three dimensional space that allows for its dramatic fountains and unique views of the skyscrapers bordering the plaza.
Dilworth Plaza's problem lies not just in its element, but in the fact that the city has given up on it. And given the condition of the area after its construction, the plaza was never really given a chance to be much more than an entrance to a transit hub. But that doesn't mean it was a bad design. In fact, it's a great design.
An early rendering of the existing Dilworth Plaza. Renderings are marketing tools, showing us the best of any design, good or bad.Like Rockefeller Plaza, the sunken garden with its graceful arches could be home to so much more.
Renderings are exciting, and most of all they offer us a clean slate. But look at the new design proposed for Dilworth Plaza, and ignore all the people. It's a one dimensional concrete patio. The design leaves no way for sculptural additions, landscaping, or even people to interact with the space.
It's flat, in every sense of the word.
The proposed reconstruction of Dilworth Plaza. Remove the life from the picture and you have a very flat, concrete plaza, a space stripped of architecture. It offers us a chance to start over, but little else.It offers us nothing more than a very expensive fresh start, and its success lies in the assumption that people will flock to it simply because it's new. In fact, this new space offers nothing that Dilworth can't currently support, and support in a far superior fashion.
While the proposal's ice skating rink offers the plaza as a destination attraction, it provides no architectural space for the resources needed to maintain an ice skating rink. Where are the rental facilities? Where is the cashier?
No provisions have been made to address the plaza's golden egg. Will we have to construct make-shift kiosks in the winter? Why bother? Dilworth Plaza was designed to grow and accommodate multiple uses.
Rockafeller Center's sunken plaza offers a much more architecturally successful attraction than Dilworth's proposed reconstruction. Dilworth Plaza could easily be outfitted to support a similar project.Its recessed plaza offers architectural elements that could house these facilities with very few alterations and keep the crowds of skaters contained and organized. The recessed plaza even offers space that could potentially be used for concession stands and warming rooms. Space that will become useless if it's put under the concrete divide of bad planning.
Dilworth Plaza's recessed space is already engineered to house an ice skating rink and any facilities required of such a feature. The proposed "upgrades" would require these facilities to either be inconveniently housed underground, or in make-shift, seasonal kiosks.Illuminating the plaza and its artwork at night, improving its landscaping, and perhaps more than anything, cleaning the space would do wonders for what many would argue is an architecturally significant space. While encouraging the public to use this space is an ultimate bonus, the proposed reconstruction is nothing but a poorly designed assumption.
Polish the gem that people have forgotten about, turn on the lights, and remind them it's there. You'll see crowds lining up to ice skate no matter what it looks like, but take a closer look at what we've got before it's decided to bury it under a thin layer of mediocrity.