Central Park’s posture as an inviolate reserve in the center of the city is gently but fatally contradicted by the attrition of the natural elements that make it up. The multiplicity of the park’s components and the inconsequence of replacing them individually has always masked this situation, but what if, as plants died, they were replaced with something else – totemic markers, intensified program, and, eventually, entirely new landscapes?
The Civic Arboretum project proposes this method to sequentially terraform Central Park’s northwest quadrant into grounds for a major new public institution, completing a cultural arc between the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Arboretum is focused on the botanical world, but also on human transformations of it: agriculture, nutrition, gardening, etc.
The main building is a giant quilt of fiberglass, Perspex, and photovoltaic strips draped over the northern end of the Great Lawn to capture a circuit of thematic greenhouse galleries underneath. Various arresting shapes poke out from under this shroud to signal the entries and public amenities. As seasonally appropriate, the hem can be hiked up to open environments directly to the park. All service is provided below grade via the 86th Street Transverse.