Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards 2017: Honorable Mention for Urban Design
Quennell Rothschild & Partners collaborated with WXY Studio to create a new Astor Place / Cooper Square – a downtown precinct that stitches together three separate plazas and a historic city park adjacent to the landmarked Cooper Union Foundation Building and Astor Place. An archipelago of traffic islands have been transformed into valuable public open space by realigning curbs, closing street and calming traffic.
To the north, the island surrounding the Astor Place subway entrance has been expanded and furnished with granite stepped seating under a canopy of honey locust trees and a large specimen willow oak.
The island that hosts Tony Rosenthal’s cube sculpture “Alamo” has been enlarged, yet retains its iconic urban character with simple concrete paving and a row of black gum trees along the southern edge.
The southernmost islands, where Cooper Square Street meets Third Avenue, have been merged into a single plaza that serves as a forecourt for Grace Church School and retail. Lush perennial plantings and flexible seating areas are protected by a canopy of sweet gum and Virginia magnolia.
Cooper Square Park, last remodeled by Robert Moses in the 1930’s, contains Augustus Saint Gaudin’s sculpture of Peter Cooper seated on a base by Stanford White. Formerly forbidding and unsafe, the park now welcomes pedestrians through its new entrances, benches, and Piet Oudolf plantings. The mature pin oaks have been carefully preserved.
Throughout, expansive tree pits double as bioswales, capturing street and sidewalk runoff, promoting on-site infiltration and reducing storm water volume on the area infrastructure.
The project involves coordination with a host of City agencies including DDC, NYC DOT, NYC Parks , MTA and DEP. Surrounding institutions and other involved parties include Cooper Union, Grace Church School, the Village Alliance BID, and Community Boards 2 and 3. DDC is the client agency, providing project management and inter-agency coordination. To facilitate this project, NYC DOT provided curb alignments, traffic engineering and construction standards. NYC DOT is also providing specific design input through their plaza and urban design program.