The Philadelphia firm WRT, teamed with Urban Strategies, from Toronto, mixed its inspirational metaphors. “We were looking at forms in nature like oysters and pearls and stem cells,” says WRT partner Margie Ruddick. “Things that have a forgiving architecture, and where one thing is nested in another.”
Her team’s plan carves a series of interlocking ovals into the flat southern landscape, nesting a play lawn inside a larger great meadow, and an artificial hill inside a new wetland at the southern end. Rather than building up the center, the WRT scheme builds up the edge, stringing a series of structures that could house a spa and retreat center on a rocky promontory, plus a working waterfront along the Brooklyn side. These buildings, however, would not pop up out of the landscape but be part of it: Green roofs would slope up from the interior toward the water at one or two stories, turning the center of the island into a protected bowl.
“I have been reading Last Child in the Woods,” Ruddick says. “It is about how those of us who connected very closely to nature as children have a sense of responsibility for it. I thought at one point of calling it Gore Island.” To this end, the team envisions a camp in a new forested ravine and a sustainable farm and garden. The southwest side of the island has evolved into a sandbar beach and reef. The plan has a hotel on the west side (perhaps one of the new Starwood eco-hotels), but not for the business traveler: “It should be considered a retreat.”