The basis of this plan, by architect REX and landscape architect Michel Desvigne, is the grid. But what they propose is hardly Manhattan’s gridiron. Rather, it is Jefferson’s, dividing the entire island into 55-by-55-foot units that would then be planted, paved, planked, and filled with grass, hard court, cedar, water, or sand to create a thick perimeter of people-intensive programming: beach, sports facilities, boating, stages, and amphitheater seating to watch the informal parade. “We didn’t want it to be just a treadmill for views,” says REX principal Joshua Prince-Ramus.
The interior would be low-cost, low-impact micro-agriculture, woodlands, water meadows, pastures. Places to dig a hole, to participate, not just watch. “It is not fake nature designed to look picturesque,” says Prince-Ramus. “We want it to be what it is: synthetic.”
Prince-Ramus wants to make sure that the park his team designs works on its own terms, and as a core around which development can happen. He points out that a 14,000-person amphitheater requested by the city would take six hours to fill with the current ferry service. And he thinks half the project’s $200 million budget will go just to infrastructural issues like preventing erosion. That said, he is optimistic. Their grid would allow whatever happens—conference center, museum, campus—to be plugged in without disrupting the pastoral center. While silvery cubes glimmer in the background of several renderings, the plan offers no architecture per se: “No one has the right to design a boathouse yet,” Prince-Ramus says. “Credibility before beauty.”