Envisioning Gateway: A Public Design Competition for Gateway National Park

Competition Launch: January 2007
Competition Website: Gateway Competition Site

In January 2007, Van Alen Institute, National Parks Conservation Association and Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation invited designers worldwide to generate proposals for the future of Gateway National Recreation Area. Created in 1972, Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway) stretches across 26,607 acres of the New York-New Jersey harbor and coast. It was one of the first units in the U.S. National Park System established to sustain both natural and urban ecologies while providing recreational opportunities for more than 22 million residents in the tri-state region. The park is a key sanctuary on the migratory flyway where more than 330 bird species have been observed, and it contains an array of estuarine wildlife habitats. Simultaneously, Gateway is home to public beaches, historic U.S. military forts and navigational facilities, New York City's first municipal airport, and regional infrastructural systems.

Comprised of as much water and marsh as land and field, this urban national park stands as one of the region's greatest opportunities. Its size and scope, however, present a set of fundamental challenges that formed the basis for the design competition. The great number of visitors and diverse wildlife at the park attest to its undeniable potential, but because it lies in two different states and serves three different city boroughs it faces competing physical, cultural, and economic demands. Additionally, Gateway's identity as part of the National Park System is not known to many of its surrounding communities. Waste and water treatment facilities historically sited at Gateway also warrant attention and reclamation.

Envisioning Gateway was an open, international competition presented and managed entirely via its website, which contained a wealth of data and research intended not only for competitors but also for Gateway's broader public constituency. With over 230 registered entrants from 23 countries, the jury selected three winning proposals and three honorable mentions that collectively challenged, embraced and expanded upon the National Park Service's dedication to environmental stewardship and education.