Roosevelt Island, New York City
Roosevelt Island has traditionally been an island of healing and refuge from nearby Manhattan. Despite its proximity to the city, Roosevelt Island is difficult to get to, creating a psychological distance. This unique coupling of closeness and distance, density and dispersion, hectic and calm, is what makes this piece of New York City the perfect location for a Wellness Center, for personal and corporate retreats, spa treatments, wellness classes, and performances.
The competition brief insisted on salvaging a derelict ruin of an asylum at South Point, the southern tip of Roosevelt Island. The ruin is in such disrepair that the structure supporting it from complete collapse is more prominent than the ruin itself. Inspired by John Baldessari’s “Wrong”, which reproduces a depiction from an amateur photography book about how to take correct pictures, this project was approached from the idea of wrong preservation. We chose to preserve the ruin as it is, in a state of picturesque decay, without restoration of any kind. To heighten this, the new additions to the ruin would be affixed to what was formerly the exterior of the asylum, and the former interior would be left open to the weather.
The strategy of wrong preservation was continued by splitting the additions into two main buildings, connected by an underground passage. The outlines of the addition and the materials they are made of camouflage their boundaries, relationship to the site, and their recognizability as additions to the ruin. They are meant to read as beautiful growths on the ruin, much the way ivy covers the masonry now.
Right Preservation: New construction supports existing exterior. Additions minimize or erase effects of time by restoring past version of the structure.
Wrong Preservation: New construction is supported by existing exterior. Additions preserve the structure as is, in the present moment.