Coney Island, best known for amusement parks and recreation, was once a pulsating vacation mecca on Brooklyn’s waterfront where city dwellers could go to escape the bustling metropolis. Due to advancements in travel, New Yorkers can now escape to more distant getaways and no longer look to this leisure island for their weekend fun. Thus, Coney Island is in need of redefinition for the 21st century. This project addresses a neglected and derelict site in the heart of Coney Island – surrounded by mechanical and industrial economy and in close proximity to the major Stillwell Avenue metro station. For years this triangular plot of land has been a waste basin for nearby industries, primarily due to inconvenience of development – adjacent infrastructures such as the Belt Parkway, metro rail, and canal effectively detach the plot from the neighborhood fabric. The site is an island, disconnected and hard to access.
An analysis of south Brooklyn today reveals that while it allocates plenty of space for recreation, the types of offerings are limited to mainstream sports such as basketball, baseball, tennis, and football. Given the diversity of New York’s population, we can deduct that this narrow spectrum is insufficient to accommodate a range of interests and hobbies. Therefore, we propose the development of a Sports Science Research Institute as a means of injecting new life and alternative recreation options into the neighborhood. By attracting private investment (the research institute, similar to the Nike headquarters in Oregon), the community will benefit tremendously: new jobs, revitalization of the derelict property and surrounding areas, and amenities from the sporting infrastructure. Likewise, the research institute will benefit from cheap property acquisition, direct connection to multiple modes of transportation, and an existing culture of recreation.
Theoretically, the project seeks to address the following challenge: How can we rethink the Jeffersonian campus model which assumes a flat, unobstructed, and virgin site? With a migration back into cities and urban areas, designers must deal with more complex scenarios that often call for creative solutions to building with existing infrastructures and topography.
The proposal introduces alternative sports to Coney Island in extreme infrastructural urban conditions. Examples such as rock climbing and golf along the highway and boat rowing underneath it illustrate how we envision the sporting facilities can harness the form and spatial conditions of existing transportation infrastructure. Primary focus is given to the intersection of multiple infrastructures. It is here, in these amplified nodes of activity, that mobility meets education, research, and recreation. The result is a hyper-intensity that can help drive the research goals of the institute and support the leisure activities of the greater New York metropolitan region.