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NYC's Bryant Park Wins 2010 Landmark Award




The groves of plane trees in Bryant Park were preserved and the lawn expanded.

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The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced May 18, 2010 that New York City's Bryant Park is the winner of the 2010 Landmark Award. The award recognizes each year a distinguished landscape architecture project completed in the last 15 to 50 years ago that has retained its original design integrity and contributes significantly to the public realm.

Bryant Park, directly behind the New York Public Library, was redesigned in the 1930s and '40s, but by the mid-1960s The New York Times termed the park a magnet for "addicts, prostitutes, winos and derelicts." By the early 1970s, police had to barricade all of the park's entrances after 9:00 p.m.

In 1979, the New York Public Library began plans for an extensive building renovation, which also included addressing the problems of Bryant Park.




The landscape architect discovered two cast-iron lamp designs conceived by the architecture firm of John Carrere and Thomas Hastings for the New York Public Library and the terraces that accompanied them. Working with a New Jersey foundry, new cast iron ornamental torcheres (right) were made for the new openings into the park and its redesigned rear terrace (left).


Urban planner William Whyte was commissioned to analyze the park design. He recommended removing the iron fencing and shrubs to make the space more open and accessible.

Led by Laurie Olin, FASLA, the 1992 redesign of Bryant Park modified and added entrances, ramps, stairs, and pavements while cutting through walks and railing to configure free circulation. The design also included concessions, public restrooms, and entertainment programming as critical components of a successful restoration. Stone paving from the 1934 scheme was salvaged for reuse and gravel walks were introduced at the heart of the park. The derelict hedges in the central area that proved to be a serious maintenance and safety problem were removed. The lawn was enlarged and two 300-foot-long borders containing herbaceous perennials and evergreens were placed against the walls and railings where they could be seen and enjoyed without forming a barrier.

The historic fountain by Charles Adam Platt was completely rebuilt with new mechanical equipment. The surrounding streets--40th, 6th Avenue and 42nd Street--were relit with new castings of the Olmsted Bishop's Crook lamp and the cast-iron railings on the perimeter walls were adjusted and restored.

The problem park is now considered a model of urban sustainability. In addition to a large green roof, the park offers year-round activities enjoyed by thousands of visitors. The park has also significantly increased real estate values in the surrounding areas, demonstrating the link between urban green space and land value.

The restoration's long-term environmental sustainability was insured by the landscape architect's commitment to durable and natural materials throughout the park.

The professional awards jury described Bryant Park as "refreshing and so beautiful. The landscape architect balanced the location, the constituency and the materials. People love the experience."


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