Course: Arch 603
Students Involved: Nick Jackson, Mohan Ummadisetty
This project placed 1st in the 2019 CSI Competition.
Roosevelt Island, which was previously called Blackwell’s Island, was founded in 1686 by Robert Blackwell. The city of New York purchased this island in the early 19th century and placed people deemed unfit for the city on this island in the Asylums and the Penitentiary. People who were deemed insane and not safe for the city of New York were isolated and incarcerated on this island. The smallpox hospital on the south end of the island was the destination for many dying people They endured suffering and helplessness through physical violence, disease, and isolation. Countless innocent lives were lost over the course of history and very little about the island and its people is known to today’s world. Our project which is located on the south west coast of the island, adjacent to the small pox hospital memorial and just north of Four Freedoms Park stands as a testimony to those harsh times. The building is a barrier between the small pox hospital and the rest of New York. Our initial goal for this project is to symbolize isolation, incarceration, intimidation, inevitability, the unearthing of secrets, and darkness to light within the spaces of the museum.
The spatial experiences we created translate directly into the Parti diagrams for the building. All the exhibit spaces are located within two massive concrete walls that have punched openings and connected by means of a steel ramp. The circulation path to the exhibit spaces is a journey that starts at the ‘dark and claustrophobic’ lower level of the museum and ends at the ‘bright and hopeful’ upper level. All the exhibit spaces have different plays of light which are achieved using skylights. The punched skylight openings in the roof symbolizes the jail cells in which people were tortured. We chose Japanese burnt wood (Shou Sugi ban) slats for the envelope of the building to better control the views and, light that enters the spaces. The museum rises out of the ground allowing access to the rooftop which would bring visitors close to the small pox hospital in addition to spectacular views of Manhattan on the west and Queens on the east. The memorial spaces is a garden that hosts memorial statues is located at the junction of the entrances to the museum, the Small pox hospital memorial, and the four freedoms park.