Float Park on Park Avenue (Or "Putting the Fun back in Hedge Fund")

Latest News: Our competition entry for Park Avenue has won a 2018 American Architecture Award!

The street level experience on Park Avenue might be challenging as long as vehicular traffic remains, and because the cross streets are critical there will always be cars on Park Avenue. 

As even the name implies, Park Avenue could be a lot more fun. Fifth Avenue has holiday parades, and parades of tourists nearly all the time; Broadway has, well, Broadway and is synonymous with entertainment; and every other midtown avenue has retail life at the ground floor. 

Park Avenue has virtually none of these features.

Imagining a linear park (without north-south traffic) may be appealing, but perhaps the ground plane is not the only possible venue for change. Considering the complex tunnel structure below, any improvement would be best if it barely touched the ground. 

Floating 10 stories above the ground, the inflatable, lighter-than-air FLOAT PARK is the obvious solution to this challenging site. Think of it as a very, very High Line!

Precedents

Once, dirigibles nearly the size of the Titanic floated across the ocean carrying passengers, crew, engines, fuel, water, food furniture and huge ballast. It would be a simple matter to float a Park above Park Avenue.

Part Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, part Cedric Price Fun Palace, part Graf Zeppelin and part Coney Island, the new Park Avenue could be all the fun the current Park Avenue isn’t. Strolling above the noise, free of crosstown traffic, closer to the sunlight and waving to the office workers and residents high above the ground, the FLOAT PARK can be the opposite of the buttoned-down world below.

Big Idea

The SKYLINE is a half mile long, tethered, lighter than air floating amusement park. Five lacy masts, with elevators and stairs, anchor the FLOAT PARK and provide easy access (along with helium and other utility delivery). Because there is no downward load, the masts can appear magically lightweight. 

Computer controlled winches at each of the 250 stabilizing cables allow constant adjustment and steady the FLOAT PARK even in the stiffest wind. The shape of the FLOAT PARK is maintained, and can be adjusted, via the internal cables and external cable net. The compartmented helium-filled interior carries all the horizontal services and the internal lighting that allows FLOAT PARK to softly glow at night.

With widths varying from 20’ to over 150’, the gently rolling landscape provides a unique walk in the most urbane context imaginable. Its shape is reactive to the specific context; restrained and linear at the Seagram Building; hovering above the atrium at the Lever House base; plugging directly into the New York Central/Helmsley Building to allow direct access from Grand Central. 

Surface Treatment

The biomemetic electroactive double skin provides further reactivity to wind or other forces. This exoskeleton gives the FLOAT PARK a rock solid countenance while the smart film coating on the lower surfaces can adjust from opaque to clear in seconds. With smart film the FLOAT PARK can be adjusted to illuminate or shade the street, with the added option to create a highway of images aimed at the crowds below. The entire FLOAT PARK becomes a living surface, capable of images, shading or solar illumination, moving patterns or even live camouflage to hide the FLOAT PARK in plain site. Internal illumination at night creates a glowing surface that emits a soft, even light to the old Park Avenue below. 

Safety

Safety is assured no matter the catastrophic event; the entire structure is chambered to contain any leaks (yes, we are aware that the Titanic was as well!). Absent any rapidly moving icebergs, a hole of virtually any size would simply slowly deflate the FLOAT PARK lowering it safely to the ground where airplane style inflatable slides can carry visitors to the cross streets. Leaking helium would have the added fun of putting everyone’s voice into the chipmunk register.

Fun Details

Fun is what the FLOAT PARK is all about:

The “Hugh Ferriss Wheel” provides fun access and egress, as well as the ride topping off at 228’ above the street.

The “Red Velvet Swing Ride” spins riders 200’ above the street in a terrifying/thrilling and sickening ride

Movies projected at night on the building facades create cinema events along the SKYLINE

Miniature Golf, Cross Country Bowling, Bouncy Belvedere Castle, Trampolines, jogging paths, rides and recreation (virtually everything but Darts!) line the length of the SKYLINE with quieter areas for the less Coney Island inclined.

Performances by Streb Lab, Circus Trapeze Training and others can integrate the inherent qualities of SKYLINE into their routines.

Bungee Jumping through the openings in SKYLINE is the ultimate thrill for the more adventurous.

Electric carts shuttle the less mobile along the 11-block SKYLINE, assuring accessibility and ease of navigation.

Construction

FLOAT PARK is intended to be built offsite and flown to Park Avenue in large sections. And it can be removed just as easily. Costs are minimal compared to equivalent load bearing structures and FLOAT PARK can grow along with the available funding and enthusiasm. Or it could shrink, be relocated, be stored elsewhere, gifted or sold making it the skyborne equivalent of the traveling amusement park. Maybe it could become New York’s gift back to Paris. They were nice enough to send us Liberty Enlightening the World. We could send them the freeform Montgolfier Memorial 250 years after that first flight!

Cost and Schedule

Costs are estimated at $6M per block. Design and fabrication/construction schedule is approx. 2 years with up to an additional 12 months for NYC approvals, depending on the specifics.

Conclusion

While it might seem fanciful to imagine a floating amusement park over Park Avenue, it is well within the realm of possibility, technology and cost. It was much more preposterous to travel in ocean liner-sized airships across the globe than to walk upon an urban version of the updated 19th century technology.

Just as the oldest mass transportation technology runs under Park Ave., the oldest airborne technology can float above it. It is an idea whose time has come again.