Newsletter: Volume 1, Issue 7

Anya Hoyer

At the end of September, over 800 people visited the Park to build and fly kites as part of a week-long celebration of International Peace Day. Visitors of all ages crowded our programming tent to design kites with different stamps, oil pastels, markers, and stickers. Park volunteers and professional kite-maker Charles Stewart were on hand to tie tails to kites and answer questions. On the sunny and windy Saturday of that week (the wind just right for kite-flying), kiteflier Archie Stewart commandeered a four-stringed flight on the lawn. It was a perfect farewell to summer. Thank you to all who joined us! (Photos from our kite flight week are available here, and in case you missed it, a fascinating history of kites is available on our blog here.)

Autumn, on the other hand, was ushered in by a stream of foreboding weather warnings; so foreboding were the cautions against Joaquin that we postponed our Imagination Playground and Uni Project events until the weekend of October 24 & 25. We hope you will join us for these final events of our programming season.

For the past five years, October has been dubbed "Archtober" by the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architecture. The name denotes a month-long city-wide celebration of architecture and design, featuring hundreds of lectures, tours, and design-focused programs. Coupled with our Archtober photography workshop, Docomomo Tour Day, Open House New York, and the return of design-centric Imagination Playground, "Archtober" is a very accurate description of Conservancy activities this month, too! (Photos from our Archtober photography workshop are available here.)

With this architecture month in mind, we wanted to share two quotes with you that relate to architecture and two significant upcoming anniversaries: the ratification of the United Nations Charter, and the public opening of the Park. Both occurred on October 24th, seventy years ago and three years ago, respectively. And both, the United Nations Headquarters and Four Freedoms Park, raise important questions like: How can architecture embody a philosophy? How does an idea shape design?

For Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who was part of an international committee to design the United Nations complex, the design of the building was a symbol itself, “When we make a building for the UN, we must have in mind, what is the UN? It is an organization to set the nations of the world in a common direction and gives to the world security...if we make something representing the true spirit of our age, of comprehension and solidarity, it will by its own strength give the idea that that is the big political effort, too.”

Louis I. Kahn hoped to be part of that effort, too. In 1947, the year he began teaching at Yale University, Kahn wrote to the head of the UN design committee, Walter K. Harrison, and asked to be involved in the UN's design. Though this did not come to fruition, we believe Kahn made several references to the United Nations in his design of Four Freedoms Park. The stone Kahn specified throughout the memorial is similar to the Vermont Marble used in the Secretariat building. Likewise the geometry of the Park - the triangular and square shapes - draws influence from the UN's own rectangularity. 

In designing his memorial to FDR, Kahn, too, questioned how architecture can embody an idea and how the design of a memorial space affects the commemorative process. "I had this thought," Kahn said at a lecture in 1973,  "that a memorial should be a room and a garden. That's all I had. Why did I want a room and a garden? I just chose it to be the point of departure. The garden is somehow a personal nature, a personal kind of control of nature, a gathering of nature. And the room was the beginning of architecture. I had this sense, you see, and the room wasn't just architecture, but was an extension of self." 

We hope you join us at the Park this month for our many architecture-related activities and educational opportunities! As always, please let us know if you have questions or ideas to make the Park even better, or if you simply wish to say hello. Thank you for being a part of our community – we look forward to seeing you at the Park soon! 

All the best,

Sally Minard
President & CEO
Four Freedoms Park Conservancy

Become a Member & Help Support the Park

Join Stephen Martin, Conservancy Director of Design and Planning, to discover the story behind Louis Kahn's 1973 design and the decades-long effort to build a memorial to FDR on Roosevelt Island.

Tour is FREE for members!

Presented in association with Docomomo Tour Day.


1PM & 3PM
Join us for a one hour behind-the-scenes tour. Register today!

11AM - 3PM
We are hosting two free drop-in family workshops. Kids can design their own blueprints, and/or create a human cantilever bridge. All ages welcome! 

Presented in association with OHNY and CityScience.

SAT & SUN, OCTOBER 24 & 25 

Our youngest visitors can channel Louis Kahn by building whatever they imagine with oversized, architectural blocks on the Lawn! FREE; no registration required. 


SAT & SUN OCTOBER 24 & 25 

The Park will host the Uni Project, a pop-up reading room. Come sit, read, draw, and explore a curated collection of books and hands-on materials! FREE; no registration required.

Imagination Playground is made possible by
"Take a look at our present world. It is manifestly not Adolf Hitler's world. His Thousand-Year Reich turned out to have a brief and bloody run of a dozen years. It is manifestly not Joseph Stalin's world. That ghastly world self-destructed before our eyes. Nor is it Winston Churchill's world. Empire and its glories have long since vanished into history. The world we live in today is Franklin Roosevelt's world."  Arthur Schlesinger Jr. 

The United Nations headquarters, which sits on the East River between 42nd and 48th streets, opened its doors some 21 years before Kahn sketched his memorial to FDR. In the spirit of international cooperation, the design of the UN complex was selected by a committee of ten architects, headed by Wallace K. Harrison and Le Corbusier. After much deliberation, a design based on plans submitted by Le Corbusier and the youngest committee member, Oscar Niemeyer, was selected. (The United Nations has curated a fascinating collection of architectural sketches of the complex and photographs from the design process available here.)

The resulting complex is comprised of four buildings, most notably the Secretariat, a 505ft, 39-story, International Style tower easily viewed from Four Freedoms Park. The Secretariat has become a symbol of the United Nations. Rising above the East River, its glass windows tinted green, it is a beacon of modernist design: sleek, balanced, and clean. The choice of International Style, an architectural style popularized in the 1920s and 1930s, was intentional; it symbolized the very change the United Nations sought to make, that of international collaboration, a chance for a new peace, and a breaking with the past. 

Read more about the design of the United Nations headquarters, and the fascinating history behind the UN, and FDR's role in its creation here.

Photo: Pictured here the United Nations Secretariat Building and Dag Hammarskjöld Library, with the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive in the foreground and the East River just visible at right, undated. Begun in 1947 and completed in 1952, the thirty-nine-story Secretariat Building was the first New York City skyscraper whose facade consisted of a glass skin. It became a prominent modernist symbol of the UN. LOC is made possible by its lead donor, Stavros Niarchos Foundation. 
Four Freedoms Park Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions help to further the mission of the Conservancy and are tax-deductible as provided by law. A copy of our last filed financial report may be obtained by contacting us at 1110 2nd Ave, Suite 301, New York, NY 10022, 212-204-8831 or by contacting the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Law, Charities Bureau, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.

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