The Site    A small, triangular block adjacent to the former St. Vincent's Hospital O'Toole Building and bounded by Seventh Avenue, West 12th Street, and Greenwich Avenue.

The Mission    Commemorate the more than 100,000 NYC residents who died from AIDS, as well as the many AIDS caregivers and activists. The challenges (as I saw them): (1) Create an uplifting memorial that provides a "strong commemorative narrative" and also has a significant presence within the urban fabric. (2) Respect and symbolically incorporate the iconic St. Vincent's Hospital O'Toole building into the design because the O'Toole building was identified as the "epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in New York City." (3) Fulfill the requirement of a public green park space with "planted areas and gardens" including "ample seating and pedestrian walkways."
(4) Provide a required below-grade learning center.

The Vision    Inspiration was found in the theme of "passage" inherent in Albert Ledner's Maritime Union Building (now known as the O'Toole Building of the former St. Vincent's Hospital.) Its most prominent forms are the nautical semicircular cutouts in the facade and the curved glass block ground floor walls of the "hiring halls." Of Ledner's circular forms, it was stated that, "... he designs in circles. It's functional and expressive. [The hiring halls] are designed to allow for no angles -- everybody is equal here, and circles pretty much express that." Those glass block "hiring halls" were originally places of passage, places of gathering, places for socializing, places for discussion. As the focal point of the battle against AIDS in New York, the physical form of St. Vincent's Hospital and its iconic O'Toole Building (described as having "exuberant forms") became spiritually connected to all touched by the AIDS epidemic in NY. It symbolically represents the passage of thousands of AIDS patients and caregivers through its doors and also, for many, the passage through life to the beyond. This design seeks to capture the memories of lives lost and altered -- their beauty, their exuberance, their vitality, as well as offering a place to gather, discuss, and commemorate.

The Elements    A curved wall of white onyx and glass panels sandwiches a grid of brilliant lights representing the lost lives. The genesis for this patterned wall lies in extracted symbolic, idiosyncratic elements of the O'Toole Building that are rearranged to form the required functions of the memorial as well as inform the narrative in a way that evokes the comfort of familiar geometry and expresses the exuberance of light-infused reinterpretation. The concave side of the wall faces the park and below-grade courtyard/learning center.

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O'TOOLE
BUILDING


NEW YORK CITY AIDS MEMORIAL PARK   Competition co-sponsored by Architizer and Architectural Record. 2012  [SLIDESHOW]


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