bjarke ingels group's 'freedom plaza' could bring affordable housing and casino to NYC

bjarke ingels group's 'freedom plaza' could bring affordable housing and casino to NYC

freedom plaza: a megaproject along the waterfront


Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has unveiled the design for Freedom Plaza, a 4.1 million square-foot development planned to transform Manhattan‘s East River waterfront. This ambitious project includes landscaped public space, a museum, hotel, affordable housing, and even a casino for a long-disused site adjacent to the United Nations building along the river. Freedom Plaza’s heart revolves around a 4.77-acre public space, nearly the size of Bryant Park. Lush greenery will extend out toward the water, offering respite from the noise and action of midtown. OJB Landscape Architecture will design this park, incorporating a children’s play area, dog run, event lawn, and a native botanical overlay, all atop a below-grade casino. Should the company secure its gambling licenses and zoning approval, construction could be underway by 2025.


Our plan is to develop this site in a way that delivers benefits for the local neighborhood and the city as a whole, worthy of its skyline and waterfront location, and befitting New York City’s key role as a leader in the global cultural economy,says Michael Hershman, CEO, Soloviev Group.We value the community input that we have received throughout the planning process and are proud to help meet the need for residential and affordable housing and public open space, as well as providing a daycare, food market, and an array of new dining and retail offerings.’

bjarke ingels group's 'freedom plaza' could bring affordable housing and casino to NYCresidential and hotel towers surround a landscaped park along the river | image © Negativ



the housing and hotel towers


Along with the Freedom Plaza’s public space, two Bjarke Ingels Group-designed residential towers will rise 50 and 60 stories to offer 1,325 apartments. 513 of these, nearly 40%, will be designated as income-restricted units ranging from studio to three-bedroom apartments. According to the New York Times, this affordable housing was proposed by developer Soloviev Group in exchange for approval to develop a casino, which the group describes as a below-grade ‘gaming area’ connected to the two 51-story hotel towers above — featuring New York City’s first five-star Banyan Tree hotel and a Mohegan hotel.

The pair of hotel towers will be linked by a skybridge extending over the corner of East 41st St. and 1st Avenue. Inside the skybridge lobby, there will be a multilevel viewing area with glass flooring and ceiling, alongside the Soloviev Foundation Art Gallery. The rooftop will host a massive 150,000-gallon infinity pool, set to become among the largest in North America. The bridge interior will house various amenities from the Banyan Tree hotel, such as a spa, wellness center, casino, dining, and bars.

bjarke ingels group's 'freedom plaza' could bring affordable housing and casino to NYC
the hotel towers, clad in warm metal, connect at the roof, creating visual unity | image © Negativ



Bjarke Ingels, founder and creative director at BIG comments:When Le Corbusier, Niemeyer and Harrison designed the UN Secretariat Building, they grafted an oasis of international modernism onto the dense urban grid of Manhattan, creating a park on the river framed by towers and pavilions. Due to the nature of the work of the UN, access to that park – although open to all nations – remains necessarily restricted, for good reasons.

With our design for Freedom Plaza, we continue to build on these architectural prinicples by uniting three city blocks to form a public green space reaching from 1st Avenue to the East River overlook, creating a green connection all the way to the water’s edge.

bjarke ingels group's 'freedom plaza' could bring affordable housing and casino to NYC
the museum will occupy a 4.77-acre publicly accessible open space | image © Bucharest Studio



Bjarke Ingels continues:Bookending the park are two pairs of towers, joined at the base or top and each framing a corner plaza: one showcasing the life of the city and the other forming an urban gate from the city to the upper park and East River beyond. Balanced on a perch overlooking the river, the Museum of Democracy neighbors the towers and celebrates the origin and evolution of one of the most impactful inventions of mankind and our continuous struggle to build, maintain and protect the institutions that uphold it.

We are incredibly honored and thrilled to be part of the team that can envision a new major public space in this great city, to contribute to the iconic skyline of Manhattan’s riverfront, and to imagine the architecture of the museum celebrating one of mankind’s greatest inventions: Democracy.’

bjarke ingels group's 'freedom plaza' could bring affordable housing and casino to NYC
the residential towers evoke modernist NYC with striped glass and aluminum facades | image © Bucharest Studio



the Museum of Freedom and Democracy


Amongst the landscaped park of Freedom Plaza, Bjarke Ingels Group will site its Museum of Freedom and Democracy. The museum’s sculptural form, resembling a continuous loop or Möbius strip, will stand as ‘a symbol of unity.’ It will integrate outdoor walking paths and will overlook a central amphitheater, taking inspiration from ancient Greek theaters as it pays homage to democracy’s long heritage. 

Urban developments of this scale usually feature a multistory podium with parking and inaccessible private amenities on a podium rooftop,’ comments Martin Voelkle, partner at BIG.Freedom Plaza, however, breaks free from that stereotype by integrating all podium programs such as parking, retail, ballroom, gaming and entertainment below-grade, which allows us to create an over 4.77-acre green space accessible to everyone. The purposefully simple forms of the towers surround the park as an urban oasis with cultural and community programs within.’
bjarke ingels group's 'freedom plaza' could bring affordable housing and casino to NYC
the landscaped park will be roughly the size of Bryant Park | image © Bucharest Studio



net-zero goals for new york


The team at Bjarke Ingels Group notes that the Freedom Plaza aims to function as a net-zero carbon development in operation. The design will make use of the East River as a heat sink to complement the buildings’ heating, cooling, and domestic hot water systems, which resulting in a reduction of potable water demand by 24.5 million gallons annually. Planned stormwater capture and retention, along with the presence of mature trees in the park, will work to mitigate the urban heat island effect. Freedom Plaza is designed to incorporate a minimum of 20% electric vehicle charging stations in its onsite parking, with the potential to expand this capacity to 60%.


an urban square will front the residential buildings at 38th St. and First Ave. | image © Bucharest Studio

bjarke ingels group's 'freedom plaza' could bring affordable housing and casino to NYC
the rooftop will host a massive 150,000-gallon infinity pool | image © Bucharest Studio


a ‘forest atrium’ will bring the outdoor public space inside with skylights and floating planters | image © Negativ



project info:


project title: Freedom Plaza

architecture: Bjarke Ingels Group / BIG | @big_builds

location: Manhattan, New York City, United States

client: Soloviev Group, Mohegan

collaborators: Adamson Associates Architects, OJB Landscape Architecture, The Friedmutter Group, HBA, Thornton Tomasetti, WSP, Langan, Rizzo-Brookbridge, Herrick Feinstein, Kilograph

size: 4,100,000 square feet

visualizations: © Negativ, Bucharest Studio


BIG team:
partners-in-charge: Bjarke Ingels, Martin Voelkle
project manager: Andreas Buettner
project designer: Kristian Hindsberg
team: Ahmad Tabbakh, Alejandro Guadarrama, Alvaro Velosa, Bernardo Schuhmacher, Brendan Murphy, Cheng Zhong, Hudson Parris, Jan Klaska, Joanne Zheng, Johannes Alexander Hackl, Omer Khan, Otilia Pupezeanu, Paul Heberle, Rafael Alvarez, SangHa Jung, Sparsh Gandhi, Sung-Hwan Um, Will Chuanrui Yu, Youjin Rhee, Beat Schenk, Margaret Tyrpa

suscribe on designboom
- see sample
- see sample
suscribe on designboom
happening now! AXOR makes individual luxury a reality in the bathroom, and reveals its citterio C collection by antonio citterio.

architecture in new york (586)

architecture in the US (1497)

bjarke ingels group / BIG (327)

museums and galleries (660)


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

designboom will always be there for you

milan, new york, beijing, tokyo,  since 1999