FDR four freedoms park: louis kahn's design opens in new york
FDR four freedoms park: louis kahn's design opens in new york FDR four freedoms park: louis kahn's design opens in new york
oct 22, 2012

FDR four freedoms park: louis kahn's design opens in new york

it’s been 40 years since new york started planning a memorial park for 32nd american president, franklin D. roosevelt (FDR) on the east end of roosevelt island. originally designed by louis kahn in 1974, the city’s almost bankrupt economy put the project on hold until the release of the documentary ‘my architect,’ when enough support was fostered to fund the completion of the project carried out by local firm mitchell giurgola architects.

bird’s eye view
image © AP photo/franklin D. roosevelt (FDR) four freedoms park LLC, paul warchol (also main image)




the triangular site of the ‘FDR four freedoms park‘ funnels visitors along a white granite plinth lined in linden trees to an open-air courtyard. at the entrance to the plaza is a thick rectangular pedestal with a 28-inch bronze bust of FDR’s head, sculpted by jo davidson. the sculpture faces the united nations headquarters, which is only 300 meters away. on the backside, the four freedoms speech is engraved as a symbol of the president’s legacy to the building blocks of contemporary democratic principles. the project is planned to expand in the future, transforming a 19th-century small pox hospital to an auxiliary visitor center. the park opens to the public on wednesday, october 24th 2012.

granite plinth
image via

approach to FDR bust
image via

end of the memorial
image © AP photo/franklin D. roosevelt (FDR) four freedoms park LLC, paul warchol

image © franklin D. roosevelt (FDR) four freedoms park, LLC

image © franklin D. roosevelt (FDR) four freedoms park, LLC

image © franklin D. roosevelt (FDR) four freedoms park, LLC




  • Unfortunately, maybe 15% of the populace is likely to appreciate the subtlety and nuance of this exquisite environmen.t I live in Rochester where Kahn’s First Unitarian church is located and it is totally underappreciated. Most people enter the sanctuary and just go “huh?”. It challenges and isn’t packed with conventional icons or visual references but instead asks that you actually see, feel, hear, participate which is not something that many are prepared for.

    On a totally pragmatic note, they’re gonna have a helluva time dealing with the skaters

    dbkii says:
  • It is a shame Kahn isn’t here to design the Eisenhower memorial now. It is a shame he is not given more regard in American architectural history. He is the complete antithesis of the bombastic, hyper-expressionistic work that is considered noteworthy architecture these days. He was the purist of the modern classicists.

    Ken von Roenn says:

    boug says:
  • shred !!

    lurkyturkey says:
  • many people dont know this, but louis kahn made rodney mullen look like a bi(t)ch

    tony hawk says:
  • Such a powerful psychological landscape…perhaps Khan was more composer than architect on this project. I still learn more from any of the master’s single projects, than from the entire career’s work of most starchitects.

    Chaszr says:
  • It looks like it belongs in Brasilia.

    And the disembodied FDR portrait bust looks just like Big Brother in the first Apple Mac TV ad.

    As a memorial to the death of freedom, i guess it will do, especially considering its proximity to the UN.

    BRL... says:
  • Four Freedoms Park is an instant classic of modern design, ironically built in the age of gimcrack starchitecture. I hope the park’s planners succeed in transforming the forlorn old hospital into an auxiliary visitor center. Louis Kahn clearly intended the crenellated Gothic Revival building, with its triangular pointed window openings, to define the third side of the triangular park. Built as a smallpox hospital between 1854-1856, it was designed by James Renwick (1818-1895), architect of many New York landmarks including St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The old hospital is faced in gray gneiss stone (which goes well with Kahn’s granite) quarried on the island. Still a commanding presence on the East River despite being abandoned since the 1950s, it deserves a first-rate restoration and adaptation.

    Tribbles says:
  • Beautiful design. It will be a truly inspiring space. And great for skateboarding.

    RAF says:
  • Can not wait to skate this spot. This island will be the new Barcelona.

    TEDS says:
  • In architecture, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way. -FDR (or something, skate or die)

    bob says:
  • Wow, Incredible Architecture!


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