About the Park

Overview

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is the only memorial dedicated to the former President in his home state of New York. It is the last work of the late Louis I. Kahn, an iconic architect of the 20th century. The Park celebrates the Four Freedoms, as pronounced in President Roosevelt’s famous January 6, 1941 State of the Union speech.

History

In the late 1960s, during a period of national urban renewal, New York City Mayor John Lindsay proposed to reinvent Roosevelt Island (then called Welfare Island) into a vibrant, residential community. The New York Times championed renaming the island for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and constructing a memorial to him, remarking: "It has long seemed to us that an ideal place for a memorial to FDR would be on Welfare Island, which...could be easily renamed in his honor... It would face the sea he loved, the Atlantic he bridged, the Europe he helped to save, the United Nations he inspired." The man chosen to give shape to this idea was the architect Louis I. Kahn, one of the masters of 20th century architecture. Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor Lindsay announced the project in 1973 and the appointment of Louis Kahn as its architect. In short order, the Governor became Vice President of the United States, Louis Kahn finished his work and died unexpectedly, and the City of New York approached bankruptcy. It required patience, memory and determination - on March 29, 2010, 38 years after its announcement, construction of Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park began.

The Four Freedoms


Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

On January 6, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a speech that shaped this nation, now known as the Four Freedoms speech. He looked forward to a world founded upon four human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Today, by building Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, we have the opportunity to honor this man and these essential freedoms.

Watch President Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech here:

 

Louis I. Kahn, FAIA (1901-1974)

Louis I. Kahn is widely considered one of the masters in the pantheon of 20th century architects.

His seminal works helped define Modernism: the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Yale Center for British Arts in New Haven, Connecticut, the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, the Capital City in Bangladesh, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the library at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. All display his masterful use of bold geometric forms, the skillful manipulation of natural light, and the artistic control of architectural expression to create a richly layered spatial experience.

Kahn revered President Roosevelt. He credited FDR for enabling him to support his family during the early years of his architecture practice through housing and community planning projects that were part of Roosevelt's New Deal programs. Kahn shared Roosevelt's desire to enrich the lives of all people. During design review meetings for Four Freedoms Park, conversations often veered off topic, becoming nuanced discussions of Roosevelt and his policies.

Kahn's design makes perfect use of the triangular shape of the Park's site, emphasizing it, and employing what could be called a forced perspectival parti to draw and focus the visitor's gaze toward the colossal head of Roosevelt at the threshold to the 'Room.' Underlying Kahn's design is a naval theme, a nod, perhaps, to Roosevelt's love of and connection to the sea, and to the unique location of the site. The Park design is symmetrical, and the construction drawings themselves are dimensioned off a centerline, as is standard in naval architecture. A sketch of an earlier iteration of the design shows a floating, tug and barge-like structure against the skyline of the city.  The final scheme acts as a prow to the island’s "boat."

Photo: Kahn during a lecture and discussion with students at the University of Pennsylvania, c. 1970.  Louis I. Kahn Collection, University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Photograph by Robert Lautman.