FDR Four Freedoms Park - New York


Photography: Erica Zhu

Location: Roosevelt Island, New York City
Architect: Louis Kahn
Construction: 2010 - 2012
Designed: 1973 - 1974

The FDR Four Freedoms Park is a memorial to the 32nd president of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt and celebrates the Four Freedoms (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear) he articulated in 1941. The park is situated on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island between Manhattan and Queens.

On a lecture at Pratt Institute in 1973 Louis Kahn described his design as follows:

“I had this thought 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.”

The island purchased by the City of New York in 1828 and was originally intended to be used for prisons and hospitals. In 1968 it had been neglected for decades and the buildings on the island were decaying. A committee including Philip Johnson and John Burgee were assigned to work out a new master plan for the island that was then called Welfare Island. One year later they proposed a new mixed-use master plan with housing for low income residents.

Louis Kahn entered the project in 1973 when it was decided that a memorial to FDR was to be built on the island and at this time its name was changed to Roosevelt Island. However the project later got put on hold due to a lack of funds as a result of a fiscal crises.

In 1974 seventy-three year old Kahn unexpectedly dies in Penn Station, Manhattan. In his briefcase he had the final drawings to what almost 40 years later would become his last built project.

The monument is constructed in granite quarried in Mount Airy, North Carolina. This specific type of granite was specified by Kahn. The monumental stones forming the walls of the Room measure 1,8 x 1,8 x 3,6 meters and each weigh 36 tons.
In total 7700 tons of stone is used to construct the park making it the heaviest stone-setting job ever in New York City. There are one hundred twenty little leaf linden trees and five copper beech trees planted within the park. The lindens were fifteen to eighteen years old when planted and the beeches were thirty years old.

The bronze portrait head of Franklin D. Roosevelt measures 1,8 meters in height and was sculpted by artist Jo Davidson at the White House in 1933. The original version, life-sized and in clay was enlarged and cast in Bronze in 2012 and marks the entrance to the Room

The 36 ton granite blocks are placed with a one inch gap between them. The Room is in total made up by 190 solid blocks.

New York City

Site plan    -    1. United Nations HQ  2. East River  3. Roosevelt Island  4. Gantry Plaza State Park

Plan    -    1. The Room  2. Bronze Sculpture - Portrait Head of the President  3. Garden





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