Municipal Art Society’s Brendan Gill Prize to Honor Louis Kahn and the Park


NEW YORK, NY: February 19, 2013—Esteemed architect Louis Kahn will receive, posthumously, the Municipal Art Society’s 25th Brendan Gill Prize in recognition of his magnificent conception and design of FDR Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island.

FDR Four Freedoms Park, designed by Kahn in 1974, the year of his death, was opened in October 2012. The park was realized with the help of Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel, Chairman of the Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, whose dedication guided the project for three decades and who raised the funds to construct the memorial and to endow its stewardship for years to come; Architect and Executive Director Gina Pollara who passionately understood Kahn’s vision and supervised construction; and Sally Minard, President of Four Freedoms Park Conservancy, which will ensure the maintenance of this great public space.

Said MAS President Vin Cipolla, “This visionary transformation of the southern tip of Roosevelt Island into a triumphant regional park by one of America’s most preeminent architects reconnects thousands of city dwellers and tourists to the birth of nations and the wider view of world history that sustains our present. MAS is pleased to be honoring and celebrating such an exceptional contribution to our city.”

“It is an honor to have Louis Kahn’s architectural design recognized by the Municipal Art Society with its prestigious Brendan Gill Prize,” said vanden Heuvel. “We are delighted that this memorial, built in honor of President Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms, has been distinguished as a design that reflects the essence of New York City. We want to thank the Municipal Art Society for including the Park in a long line of extraordinary works honored with the Brendan Gill Prize.”

A memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt filling four acres, the park is named after the four essential freedoms Roosevelt spoke of in his 1941 State of the Union address: Freedom of Speech and Expression; Freedom of Worship; Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.
These Four Freedoms are carved in granite in the park and referenced more abstractly in the design.

The memorial consists of monumental stairs leading to a central rectangular shaped lawn that appears triangular from different vistas. Littleleaf Linden trees flank the lawn and lead to the “room” – 60 -foot square plaza whose walls are comprised 36-tons of North Carolina granite blocks. On either side of the memorial, granite embankments drop to promenades. A bronze bust of the President, an enlargement of a sculpture by the renowned artist Jo Davidson, is a focal point of the Park. Across the river is the United Nations, a testament to President Roosevelt as its founding father.

The Brendan Gill Prize is an annual cash award given to the creator of a work of art made during the previous year that captures the energy and spirit of New York City. The FDR Four Freedoms Park Conservancy will use the cash prize to maintain the park.

The prize is named for longtime New Yorker theater and architecture critic, champion preservationist and former MAS chairman Brendan Gill.  A man of extraordinary intelligence and wit, Gill shared his remarkable talents with New York City and with MAS until his death in 1998. The prize was established in his honor in 1987 by his friend and fellow MAS board member Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis along with board members Helen Tucker and Margot Wellington. Ms. Tucker continues to serve on the jury along with Randall Bourscheidt, Kathryn Chenault, Heidi Ettinger, Tom Finkelpearl, Gail Gregg, Paul Gunther, John Haworth, Suketu Mehta and Vin Cipolla.

Recent prize recipients include musician Sufjan Stevens, artists Mike and Doug Starn, John Morse, Jeanne-Claude and Christo, and actress Sarah Jones.

Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel will accept the prize on behalf of Louis Kahn and FDR Four Freedoms Park on Tuesday, February 26, at the MAS Annual Meeting. Media coverage is invited.

The Municipal Art Society of New York has led New York City’s livability movement since 1893. MAS’s mission is to advocate for public policies, private sector practices, individual agency and community engagement for a resilient built environment that encourages our city’s economic vitality, cultural vibrancy, environmental sustainability and social diversity. For more information visit  

Hazel Balaban
212.935.3960 ext. 1227