Healing Greenwich Village: Architects Planning AIDS Memorial at St. Vincent’s Site

Village green. (Architizer)

Is a tiny triangle in Greenwich Village the next 9/11 Memorial? That’s what a pair of local activists are hoping, with their plan to turn a patch of land across from the old St. Vincent’s hospital into the city’s first AIDS memorial. They have even signed up Michael Arad, designer of the ground zero mecca, to lead a design competition for the project.

“The design process that happened after the events of 9/11… catalyzed this citywide discussion about an important historic event, and we think this design competition can do something similar,” Paul Kelterborn said in a video posted by the competition sponsors, Architizer and Architectural Record.

The hope is to turn the old triangle at Seventh Avenue and West 12th Street into a new memorial. As part of Rudin Management’s plans to convert the old hospital complex into a condo development, the august real estate family has promised to turn the 16,000-square-foot triangle plot, formerly home to storage and maintenance facilities for St. Vincent’s, into a park. Even if it does not like the new condos, the community welcomes the new open space, though it has quibbled over the particular designs for the park.

From ambulence parking to AIDS park. (Architizer)

It remains to be seen whether the Rudins would support the memorial plan, though the developer has been willing to make some concessions to the community thus far, such as building a new school in a former St. Vincent’s building.

The designers behind the competition hope to convince them, as they view this as a rare opportunity to create a memorial in what was the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. Not only has the Village always been strongly associated with gay culture and the equal rights movement, but St. Vincent’s set up the first and most extensive AIDS ward in the city.

“There really won’t be an opportunity to design another important public space in Lower Manhattan, Christopher Tepper said. “This site is particularly important because there’s an opportunity here that doesn’t come around very often.”

The competition calls for a design that does in fact resemble the plans for the 9/11 Memorial a good deal. A park would be located at street level, while the existing below-ground space at the plot would be turned into the AIDS memorial.

How exactly this would be achieved is up to the designers participating in the competition. In addition to Mr. Arad, the competition has drawn a number of other high profile jurors, including Richard Meier, Kurt Anderson, landscape architect Ken Smith and High Line collaborators Robert Hammond (co-creator) and Elizabeth Diller (architect).

Submissions are due by January 21, with a win expected in the spring. The big question, then, is if the organizers can mount the kind of political support both the High Line and the 9/11 Memorial achieved in that short span of time.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC Healing Greenwich Village: Architects Planning AIDS Memorial at St. Vincent’s Site