Queens Plaza Ideas Competition Text
Kinetic & Acoustic
The city leaps in a dance of a million moves.
The city sings with the music of a million notes.
In the hazy cool morning, it clears its throat tentatively as warm-up trying to
shake the energy of the night before
In the heat of the midday sun, its voice is as a raucous choir hitting discordant
high notes while entertaining the workers and passers-by who try to rest limbs
out of the constant stream of kinetic energy.
In the peace of the wee small hours; its hum is a ceaseless lullaby, its players
and performers swaying and weaving through the streets to its rhythm.
The contemporary city dweller knows the tune and the dance of the city. She wants
more but needs less, the contradiction of human frailty living in an unyielding
In Queens Plaza, streams of kinetic energy converge and diverge in a roaring,
speeding whole. Elevated train lines thunder and vibrate above, as subway lines
grumble hollowly below. Queens traffic, local traffic, manhattan traffic, business
traffic, commercial traffic, residential traffic, tributaries at ground level
to a rushing line of vehicles that rip the space in two. The percussive noises
of the slowly departing manufacturers are fading, the growl of Rolls-Royce engines
long gone, along with the flash of a passing Brewster car. Soon, this historic
area will be developed for the dense accommodation of new business and commerce.
After the terrible events of September 11th 2001, the need for a dense new hub
outside of Manhattan may well cause rapid construction and an influx of new performers
to the area.
• How to prevent the space bending to the hard traffic streams and becoming deafened
in the noisescape?
• How to create spaces for not only these anticipated new performers, but allow
the close and growing artists network to thrive and make their mark on the form
and fabric of the urban landscape?
• How to develop an urban surface where the staccato rhythm of 9-to-5 programmes
syncopate with the 24hour tribal beat of the remaining residents lives?
• How to design for new modes of work-playing and play-working in the highly-connected,
disposable technology world?
We propose… Addition, multiplication and amplification of activity, speed and
noise. Subtraction, division and decay of the generic, the fixed and the average.
The creation of a new type of urban plaza intrinsically linked to the movement
and noise of the city. Interventions that enhance, increase and emphasize the
energy of the kinetic and acoustic genius loci of the area and drive the development
of unique programmes that can only occur in such an information and sensory overloaded
We floor the accelerator, throw up the volume and entwine people within the noise.
We flick up the brightness, dodging and burning at the intertwined shadows and
lights of infrastructure until the contrast is maxed out. We love the city extremes.
A strong streetscape with pedestrian friendly sidewalks, street tree & open facades
defines the edge of the kinetic energy. Road traffic is consolidated and sped
up through the removal of various at-grade pedestrian crossings. Above the road
and below the train structures we create safe soft routes through the chaos. As
a vine weaves up hard sharp edged metal supports, we offer elevated lines for
soft traffic through and amongst the hard traffic lines. From these elevated lines,
information can be absorbed on the ground plane below in the form of giant graphic
displays that act as signposts, world information displays by day, active disco
floors for the evening club scene. We introduce noisescape units where users can
programme white noise to dull the roar, the green noise of a pre-interview situation,
pink noise to befuddle the brain with pleasurable inputs and outputs.
Hard & soft traffic heirachy
• Hard traffic at core heading to and from Manhattan
• Local traffic on either side at slower speed
• Traffic islands rationalized and collected in order to widen sidewalk
• Soft traffic crosses on elevated bridges
• Signage plan introduced to allow easy orientation within the square and for
those passing through Queens plaza as a center for urban noise research
• noise-units as walls or canopies supported within the existing infrastructure
• local artists involved in non technical aspects of the units form & material
• connections provided to internet music collections & pre-loaded noise concerts
• white noise programmes to escape the traffic roar, calming green noise to release
the stress, arousing pink noise to start the weekend
• staging areas created for club events & concerts creation of an actively legible
• active signs, guides & lighting for elevated soft traffic
• large scale projectors for club events & concerts
• visual links to sunnyside yards gives coherence back to local boundaries
• dynamic infrastructure shadows celebrated & enhanced as part of genius loci
• integrated displays with noise units giving the street back to the people
• strong pedestrian edge
• activating building frontages
• street trees to buffer noise, ameliorate & cool area
• water features to cool area & buffer noise pollution
Extract from Competition Brief
In the early part of the 20th Century, with its wide,
tree-lined streets, Queens Plaza, in Long Island City, fulfilled its role as the
gateway to Queens and as a significant departure point to Manhattan. With the
construction of the elevated subway tracks and an ever-increasing volume of traffic,
however, Queens Plaza's built form has lost its emblematic role.
The dense layers of transportation infrastructure including boulevards, bridges,
and elevated trains are a liv-ing diagram of the early 20th Century city and its
promise that traffic and prosperity go hand in hand, evidenced by the impressive
building stock from that era. Yet today Queens Plaza has the potential for a new
identity from the scale of the median to the scale of the plaza. Long Island City
is the subject of several initiatives and developments that relate to culture,
transportation, e-commerce, and industry, many of which are focused within a mile
and a half of Queens Plaza. These programs are changing the character of this
district. In the next twenty years, North America will be building "smart cities,"
in which information, environmental quality, and recreation are integrated with
traditional urban systems in an increasingly diverse economy and population. With
its emerging retail, commercial and cultural activities, and its evolving manufacturing
sector, Queens Plaza is poised to become part of this urban trans-formation.
James Corner, Landscape Architect, Partner, Field
Richard Gluckman, FAIA, Principal, Gluckman Mayner Architects;
Terence Riley, Chief Curator, Department of Architecture and Design,The
Museum of Modern Art;
Marilyn Jordan Taylor, FAIA, Partner, Skidmore Owings &
NYC Department of City Planning;
NYC Department of Transportation;