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Thread: New Columbus Circle - by The Olin Partnership

  1. #46
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    NY Sun
    6/28/05

    Two Years and $20M Later, Traffic-Plagued Columbus Circle Near Completion

    By DAVID LOMBINO, Special to the Sun

    Soon, for a time at least, the circle will be unbroken.

    The eternally clogged intersection at Columbus Circle seems to have been under construction forever. After two years and $20 million, however, the latest of its construction projects is essentially complete, slightly late but slightly under budget. A ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Bloomberg is being planned for later this summer.

    The circle, at the southwestern corner of Central Park, was enlarged, landscaped, and outfitted with a high-tech fountain that encircles the monument. The surrounding streets were rebuilt with new sidewalks, curbs, lights, water mains, and sewers.

    "This was not our everyday project," the assistant commissioner of the city's Department of Design and Construction, Evans Doleyres, said. "Our normal problems were magnified tenfold." The agency oversees and executes city construction projects.

    The project was scheduled for completion in late 2004, but builders had to reroute traffic from six major thoroughfares, carve an underground control room the size of an apartment into a bed of solid underground rock, and juggle jurisdictions with an alphabet soup of city agencies.

    Stakeholders included the departments of transportation and environmental protection, Con Edison, New York City Transit, Parks and Recreation, the Central Park Conservancy, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Art Commission, the Municipal Art Society, local community boards, and the big construction project next door: the $1.7 billion Time Warner Center.

    Last to be completed is a fountain with two concentric rings of arching water, which was developed by WET Design, the team that built the fountains at Las Vegas's Bellagio Hotel and Casino and the Brooklyn Museum. An underground computer coordinates the sequencing of water spurts, adjusting for wind changes, and is connected by modem to the designer's office in Los Angeles.

    Long, curved benches made from ipe, a tropical hardwood, surround the basin.

    "When you go in there, hopefully the noise of the city will be drowned out. The water is a clue that you are in a special place," a representative of the landscape architecture firm Olin Partnership, Allan Spulecki, said. "The center emanates out, becoming a bull's-eye in an urban center. Columbus Circle is in a very special spot in New York."

    The monument is the point where distances to and from the city are officially measured.

    The 40-foot marble monument of Columbus, by the Sicilian sculptor Gaetano Russo, was erected in 1892, the 400th anniversary of the explorer's journey to what became America.

    In 1991, the statue was restored in preparation for its centennial, and seven years later, the city turned Columbus Circle into a real circle, changing traffic configuration, improving pedestrian access, replanting, and installing benches. The current project began in 2003.

    Its completion, however, will not forever banish the orange cones. The statue is to undergo another restoration before Columbus Day this October, and the Museum of Art and Design hopes to proceed this fall with its controversial plan to renovate and move into the "lollipop motif" building, designed by Edward Durell Stone, at 2 Columbus Circle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tonyo
    NY Sun, 6/28/05

    Traffic-Plagued Columbus Circle Near Completion

    The circle, at the southwestern corner of Central Park, was enlarged, landscaped, and outfitted with a high-tech fountain that encircles the monument.

    Last to be completed is a fountain with two concentric rings of arching water, which was developed by WET Design, the team that built the fountains at Las Vegas's Bellagio Hotel and Casino and the Brooklyn Museum.
    I stepped over the yellow tape and between the cones the other day to take a look -- maybe when the trees get bigger and the water is running it will have some life.

    Skateboarders seem to love it -- about 6 guys were doing tricks on every available edge and surface. They've already left their marks (tell-tale signs being the streaks along the stone edges of the "fountain" and entry portals).

    And I hope they figure out some other solution to the current bank of yellow & black arrow signs that flank the southern edge. Really horrifying. Why didn't the designers / DOT consider the necessity of directional signage and work it into the design?

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    Quote Originally Posted by londonlawyer
    Due to poor landscaping, it currently looks like crap. The trees look anemic, and the bushes look messy. This is extremely disappointing, and it's pathetic that it took so long to build. It has potential though... It just needs good trees now (rather than waiting 15 years for them to grow) and to put in flowers (as in the renderings), rather than the scraggly bushes.

    They should also put back the fountain that surrounded the monument. Just because a new fountain was added doesn't require getting rid of the old one.
    Yes I don't see anything to be excited about with this new landscaping.... Is just boring looking.

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    Okay, I'm a greasy Italian man (in the nicest sense of those words) and when I get home my face has acted like a magnet to every grain of soot, diesel exhaust and dirt particle floating around the air (you get the visual?).

    As much as I admire the aesthetic aspirations for this circle of cement with the giant studded dildo sticking out of it, I must wonder (out loud - right here with you) how filthy will my face get spending, say, fifteen minutes in that eddie of exhaust and fumes?

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    I agree that because the trees are young and spindly (and there are no bush or hedge plantings in between them), the circle currently looks pretty bare. I've also seen teenagers climb all over the statue column and sitting on the pediment like it's some kind of jungle gym.

    However, this Bellagio fountain sounds like it could be really cool, so I will reserve judgement until it is officially complete.

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    Oh the good old days....

    I knew something was intersting fresh about this design. Its call 'creativity'

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrooklynRider
    Okay, I'm a greasy Italian man (in the nicest sense of those words) and when I get home my face has acted like a magnet to every grain of soot, diesel exhaust and dirt particle floating around the air (you get the visual?).

    As much as I admire the aesthetic aspirations for this circle of cement with the giant studded dildo sticking out of it, I must wonder (out loud - right here with you) how filthy will my face get spending, say, fifteen minutes in that eddie of exhaust and fumes?
    That was my real-life LOL moment of the day.

  8. #53

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    The fountains really do kill the traffic noise.


  9. #54

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    You tantalize with a beautiful photo, Zippy, but I still can't tell what the experience of new Columbus Circle is. How about some more pics?

  10. #55

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    That's the only photo. The benches along the fountain pools need to be in place to get an accurate view of how the public will engage the space. I plan a return visit next weekend.

    At the moment, the stepped base of the monument is the only place to sit.

    The space will not be a shady grove, an impression given by the overhead renderings. If there are too many trees, they would eventually form a canopy, and the monument would be visually lost from outside the circle.

    When the outer ring of plantings are about three feet high, traffic will be screened from view.

    Stay tuned.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eugenius
    My only concern is that the fountains are too close to the benches if the wind conditions are anything but calm, you are going to see people getting hit by the spray coming from the fountains.
    On a hot summer day that spray could be just the right answer.

  12. #57

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    I took a walk there on Saturday. I agree, the trees are pretty sad looking. They look like they'll need at least another decade to grow to a size appropriate to the place. Why didn't they just spring for more mature trees?

  13. #58

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    As it was once explained to me:

    A percentage of transplanted trees do not survive, because 90% of the root system is lost, and the tree is under great stress until it can reestablish the proper ratio of tree size to root system. As trees mature, the roots grow horizontally, so an older tree will lose more of its roots during the transplant, and it will take longer than a younger tree to stabilize.

    The transplant needs constant attention during this time, something it is not going to get in an urban traffic environment. That is why younger, more resilient trees are selected.

  14. #59

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    ^ What you say is true, as far as it goes. And unimpeachably true in all particulars in a low-maintenance, low-care environment such as you might expect these days from city workers in Columbus Circle.

    Here's another scenario from a different time and place: When New York's Olmsted Brothers were hired to lay out Charlotte's Forest Hills-like streetcar suburb of Myers Park, they found themselves close to the forest edge. There they found a tangle of magnificent willow oaks striving lankily toward the light.

    They harvested the 40 to 60 foot trees and lopped off the sparse lower branches, then hauled the trees by mule team and planted them in close-spaced rows along all streets in their new subdivision. In short order these magnificent, vertically-proportioned forest trees expanded horizontally to form canopied streets that remind onlookers of Gothic church vaults.

    Beneath this verdant canopy, summer temperatures are usually 5 degrees lower. Visitors invariably exclaimed about the magnificent visual order of this single-species tree canopy, which gave Charlotte its unique character. They had never seen anything like it; the closest thing was the allees of Versailles.

    Either the survival rate was high due to loving care, or the trees were replaced as they died, because until about 15 years ago, the canopy was both complete and even, with trees of similar girth and height.

    Then the city foolishly hired a second New York landscape consultant, who advised the city that good disaster planning for possible future diseases called for a varied tree cover in case a disease struck the willow oaks. This lamentable policy was adopted, and Charlotte has been losing its unique character ever since, as the magnificent willow oaks are culled (supposedly the less healthy ones are removed first) and replaced either with a variety of species or with smallish, store-bought willow oaks with their nursery-bred conical shape.

    Every year Charlotte looks less like Charlotte. It still has trees, but so does Toledo.



    Conventional wisdom.

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    The transplant needs constant attention during this time, something it is not going to get in an urban traffic environment. That is why younger, more resilient trees are selected.
    Of course that makes sense but it still rather boggles the mind that, what $5 Billion dollars can be spent to build the TWC but they skimp on the landscaping? It really would serve the area better to have bit the bullet, there aren't THAT many trees, a dozen?

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