Winning Design for an international competition sponsored by the Van Alen Institute, New York, “Queens Plaza Design Ideas Competition”, Office AT was selected for the first prize from 191 entries from around the world in 2001
Queens Plaza, in Long Island City, is on the edge of major change. An essential part of infrastructure, with its intersection of roadway, subway, and elevated trains, it is now become a critical part of its urban experience. Our first initial impression of the Queens Plaza site is that the difficulty of the pedestrian traffic in the area. Crossing signals are hard to make out and white lined crosswalks are confusing. As a result, pedestrians crossing Queens Plaza often find themselves waiting in between heavy traffic. Traffic in Queens Plaza becomes particularly unpredictable as lanes approaching and exiting the Queensboro Bridge come in to conflict with both pedestrians and each other. The area between two major subway stations, which currently left empty, and nobody really use or pay attention to the area, just stop by and pass as transit circulation. The idea is trying to make the site alive and in the same time solving the current problems of noise and chaotic atmosphere. We imagine how people can work, play, live, travel, and communicate in the 21st century public space. With a mix of commercial, civic and culture programs, it also demands a contemporary identity in which it will be defined by new economy of information and culture exchange.
Because of traffic confusion, we added the new corridor -media corridor- between subway and street level for pedestrians, which occupy medians and connect major subways and elevated trains. By projected different media on its perforated metal skin, the media corridor can continually blur, present and renew its identity and communicate with different users on different levels.
We also suggest new programs in the new corridor for everyday users – such as magazine/snack stand, coffee shop, bar, exhibition – which we arranged by time period that different users spent in the media corridor.
We put the less time-consuming programs on the first floor for the fast speed users and, like wise, the more time-consuming programs on the upper floors for the slower speed users. All programs were connected according to relationship between different user types.
Basically the media corridor shape is to follow the shape of the elevated train tracks. By this gesture, the media corridor also becomes blurred with existing train track structures. This will make the corridor framing the open space and become an information wall for people that use the plaza below as well.
Normally architecture are always perceived as a fixed entity or a given, stable object, but we try to create architecture that is open and dynamic. Although it is built, structure is still not fixed entity. By providing extreme flexibility, architecture can moves and changes depending on how it is used in different events and open to even further changes at the site. To apply this idea, we propose the flexible plaza that can be adjusted depending on events, such as weekday people use plaza as park or exercise area, but in weekend people use plaza as market or performance etc.
We provide various & flexible activities at the site. Everyday it can be used as park, but through simple manipulation it can become exhibition, installation, performance, and market etc. This multiplicity of activities will lead people to the site and make life back to plaza again. Also Media corridor makes users interact with media technology. Users would gather information and culture exchange just from walk through the area. We think this is the new way for people to globally communicate in the new century. And by encouraging the users to participate in defining what the site means for them, this should make them feel more comfortable and more identified with the place.