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Unbuilding Site, Remaking Place

In the 1980s, landscape architect Lee Weintraub was commissioned by the NYC HPD to redesign McKenna Square Park. At that time, he said “parks were vacations for those of us who couldn’t afford them. They were safety valves, escapes from hot asphalt, real breaths of fresh air.” We agree with Mr. Weintraub but also believe that the park is due for an update. The methodology of our redesign is the Manual Guidebook to McKenna Square Park: to produce a comprehensive understanding of what aspects of the park should be removed, repurposed, or left alone entirely. The COVID-19 pandemic’s implications have reminded us that comfortable outdoor space is precious and essential to the city. Our proposal reimagines the park through the idea of the outdoor living room, extending the programmatic needs of the existing community into the spaces of the park. We redesigned the site through the multiple lenses of landscape design, material circularity, community-specific programming, and seasonal changes. Our approach suggests a more expansive, thoughtful, and creative outlook about how architects can think about design. It also highlights the significance of small open spaces, and what to do with as little as possible.