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Project: Bryant Park
Location: New York, NY
Firm: OLIN
Year: 1991
Firm website: www.theolinstudio.com

Project Description: Bryant Park is a landmark project and ultimate model of urban park restoration. As one of the highest-profile and most cherished public spaces in one of the world’s most important urban centers, the success of the project was pivotal both for Olin Partnership and the city of New York.

Designed in the 1930s as the front yard to the New York Public Library, the park had declined to deplorable conditions by the 1960s, primarily inhabited by drug dealers and filled with illegal activity. The park was dangerous and unsightly. In an effort to solve its ills and return the park to mainstream society, Olin Partnership was asked to redesign the space. The project would be constructed in conjunction with planned library improvements. With an acute need for additional book stacks, Olin Partnership logically suggested locating them beneath the park.

The team studied the site intensely and referred to the groundbreaking research by urban sociologist William H. White undertaken in Bryant Park itself. The concept for improvements was based on his theory and observations—simply, the park had to be more accessible, both physically and visually. Increasing desirable attendance by all types of people at all hours and seasons met this goal by adding and modifying entrances, ramps, stairs, and pavements and by configuring an open circulation system. Active concessions, public restrooms, moveable seating, and entertainment programming were critical to the plan. Most notable, the project successfully demonstrated the design application of sociological theories derived from original field research on the site and elsewhere in the city.

Since its redesign, a diverse group of residents, office workers, and tourists flock to the space. The park has transformed public life in midtown Manhattan and has become an icon of urban park revival and rescue, both physically and programmatically. The benefit of skillful, committed management and maintenance by the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation ensures its continued success into the future.

Project Team Members: AltieriSeborWieber LLC, Brandston Partnership, Inc., Joseph R. Loring & Associates, Inc., Lynden B. Miller Garden Design, Rosenwasser/Grossman Consulting Engineers, P.C., Tishman Construction Corporation