A Forest Grows in the Village: Studio a+i’s AIDS Memorial Design Selected

infinite forest A Forest Grows in the Village: Studio a+is AIDS Memorial Design Selected

"Infinite Forest" by design team at Studio A+i

With all the negative attention surrounding Rudin Managment’s plan to turn the old St. Vincent’s hospital into condos, there has been one piece about which people have been genuinely excited—even if it is not officially part of the plan: a new AIDS Memorial Park proposed for a triangle of land at the corner of 7th Avenue and 12th Street.

Today, the AIDS Memorial Park Design Competition jury announced the contest winner and selected a local design team from 475 submissions from around the world. The Brooklyn-based crew,  studio a+i, proposed a design called “infinite forest.” Stands of trees are set against polished surfaces reflecting the “forest” on-and-on as well as those inside. It creates a space of quiet contemplation that hides the busy city beyond.

5927 infiniteforest diagram vertical A Forest Grows in the Village: Studio a+is AIDS Memorial Design Selected

One park, many places.

“The winning design creates a space for reflection, awareness and recognition, while acknowledging the history of the disease,” jury chair and 9/11 Memorial designer Michael Arad said in a statement.

Studio a+i is made up of Mateo Paiva, Lily Lim, John Thurtle, Insook Kim, and Esteban Erlich, and their design was rendered by Guillaume Paturel. According to their website, the designers have created both retail and residential spaces around the city. Previous projects include a Tribeca loft, french clothing brand Zadig and Voltaire’s Mercer Street store and the Ronnybrook Milk Bar at Chelsea Market.

“The winning concept inspires us, and is the starting point for an iterative process to design a green oasis with an AIDS memorial for the community and New York City,” memorial co-founders Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn said. Three runners up and 12 honorable mentions were also awarded to competing designs.

The only remaining question is whether Bill Rudin will build it. He seems obliged. After all, the AIDS memorial project has helped shore-up some support for his development project.

Update: Mr. Rudin is eager to work with AIDS activists on incorporating elements of their proposal into his. Considering a new design would require an entirely new public-review process, this specific memorial seems to stand less of a chance of actually getting built, as it would take at least another year to be approved. Below is Rudin Management’s statement:

Our neighborhood park design – which was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Community Board 2, the Borough President’s Office and the City Planning Commission – allows for a commemoration of both those effected by the AIDS epidemic and of St. Vincent’s Hospital for its 160 years of service to the community and its steadfast commitment to care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS. We stand ready to continue our work with all stakeholders to determine how best to realize these memorial elements as part of the approved park design in a timely manner.



  1. Mr. Downer says:

    This design is an almost perfectly designed to kill songbirds, particularly during the seasons of migration. Each morning there will be dozens of feathered carcasses at the base of these mirrored walls, and during the day visitors can expect to see confused birds bashing into the mirrors as they try, in vain, to escape to that tree they think they see. Something must change here or it will be incredibly demoralizing for all involved.

    1. Louis says:

      most birds fly into windows or mirrors as a territorial response (male birds think their reflection is another bird…). so if you’re right, wouldn’t there be dead birds around all the skyscrapers in the city? maybe birds and animals are smarter than you? birds would stay in the tree canopy way above the mirrors. what would be demoralizing is to build or not build something based on irrational fears.

      1. Louis says:

        btw, i was about to post that i think the design would be amazing and incredibly poetic and beautiful. well done to the winners!

      2. Mr. Downer says:

        It is irrational to project some notion of “territorial response” or “staying in the tree canopy above the mirrors” on the known facts of bird strikes related to glazed, polished and mirrored surfaces – particularly those next to landscape (google it).

        And just as those mirrored rooms installed in Madison Square Park a few years ago killed birds in the name of “art” (an infrequently discussed aspect of the installation), so will this.

        Its was bad enough to see a yellow warbler breaking its neck while chowing a burger at shake shack – it will be an order of magnitude worse to come to this memorial, expecting a “space of quiet contemplation”, and witness one of these beautiful creatures killing itself. Something must change.

  2. Anonymous says:

     When we are walking through the Infinite Forest we see ourselves at every step and every turn. We infect ourselves with HIV/AIDS. Therefore we are condemning memorial park visitors who have AIDS who walk through the Infinite Forest and see themselves. The Infinite Forest is about reflecting the self through mirrors, and the self infliction of AIDS that is brought about by sexual misfortune or deviance. What we see as a surface level idea has unwarranted side effects when carried to a deeper level of thought and consciousness.

  3. Johndumbarton2 says:

    No one is talking about the EXTERIOR of the proposed park:  Tall black walls isolating the park from the neighborhood and community – a permanent construction fence that will certainly be covered within a few days by grafitti and advertising posters.  Is this really the message of a universal AIDS Memorial Park?  Curious as to how the jury rationalized this dismal part of the design.

  4. stanray says:

    Is the chosen design just a gimmick? I fail to see the park
    aspect here. The space reminds me of the 9/11 memorial with reflecting mirrors
    instead of reflecting water, and starkly spaced trees. Other than these trees,
    there’s no life here, no lush greenery to attract you. (BTW, white birch trees
    have a short life span even under the best conditions. That’s why they naturally
    grow at the edge of a forest and not deep in the woods.)


    This space is not inviting. It’s a triangular room with
    mirrored covered walls 12′ tall all around and a small entrance at each of the
    3 corners. The ground is covered in gravel and there are several concrete slabs
    to sit on. This doesn’t feel like it would be comfortable. It’s actually rather
    sterile. There’s certainly no spot where you can reflect in solitude since
    you’re surrounded by mirrors! The space is actually claustrophobic and disturbing.


    To think that people will see their reflection and those
    around them and actually make some connection that they are all affected by
    AIDS, is really a stretch. This rationale makes no sense to me, but I guess
    anything can be rationalized to sell an idea or product, whether it’s true or


    Since the designers were mere children at the height of the
    AIDS crisis, they probably have no personal connection to anyone who lived
    through this disastrous and scary time. The committee might find it helpful to
    get the opinions of those of us who were there and are still living with this


    I do hope that the judges will rethink their choice. And,
    consider some of the practical issues of the design. Some of these designs have
    maintenance nightmares!


    Also, if a purpose of the design is to keep AIDS as a topic
    that is still alive, why are we hiding it in a 12′ high room with black slate
    walls facing the public? Walls which will probably get covered with graffiti
    and posters. Do you really think someone will write loving messages in chalk on
    these walls? The space, and the topic, needs to be open and part of the
    community, not enclosed and shut off from society.


    We can do better than this.