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A Walk in the Park

Making sense of The Gates.

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Illustration by Jason Lee

Placement of Gates
The longest continuous run of gates—36—stretches along Ramsey Playfield in the southeast corner of the park, and in the north meadow. There are no gates in the north woods, the Ramble, or on the path around the reservoir. There are also no gates along pathways with low-hanging branches because, as the contract stipulated, “no vegetation . . . shall be disturbed.” Those requirements eliminated just over half of the park’s 56 miles of pathways. The 7,500 gates, standing sixteen feet tall and spaced approximately twelve feet apart, will line the remaining 23 miles.

Weather
If it snows—Davenport has bought 150 snow shovels and 500 pounds of calcium chloride just in case—workers will have to shovel the pathways to find the painted icons indicating where the bases should be placed. But they won’t have to shovel every inch of The Gates’ 23 miles. The location of the first base in every run is marked with a green leaf, which points toward a series of green dots, each twelve feet apart. Every run ends with another green leaf pointed back toward the first. Once the shovelers find one marker, they can measure their way to the others without hefting all the snow in between.

102nd Street (1)
Between December 2 and January 5, drivers delivered 210 truckloads of steel bases from The Gates’ assembly plant in Queens to the 102nd Street staging area, where the materials were stored until they could be distributed throughout the park. Sixty loads of vinyl will be delivered by the end of January.

Summit Rock (2)
Although the artists insist there is no “best place to view The Gates,” Summit Rock comes close. From the 141.8-foot point (the highest natural elevation in the park), you can see scores of gates marching across the Great Lawn.

Double Gates (3)
There will be one stretch of double gates, running along 72nd (starting just west of the band shell) and curving down toward the Sheep Meadow.

Harlem Meer (4)
Each of the 7,500 gates sits on land, except for the trio that rise from the Harlem Meer.

The Name
The artists named their project after the openings in the stone wall that encircles the park, which Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux called “gates.” Despite ongoing controversy, Jeanne-Claude says she’s sure “Olmsted would be very happy.”

Human Impact Study
The artists commissioned sociologist Kenneth Clark to study New Yorkers’ attitudes toward the project. He interviewed 660 people and found, among other things, that The Gates was more popular among the poor than among the rich.

Expected Crowds
City and Parks officials have predicted that The Gates will draw half a million tourists to New York, and crowds of as many as 200,000 people.

The Passion of the Christos
The Gates, in Central Park, 26 years in the making, mile upon mile of billowing fabric, is the largest artwork since the Sphinx. But what does it mean? As Jeanne-Claude might say, what a dumb question.

The Gates at a Glance
A vast project made simple.


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