The Return of the Follies: World Expo 2020

NYC thanks to Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has made great strides in providing much needed and improved public space; the Hudson River and Riverside parks, arterial bike paths throughout the city, and urban plazas crafted from closed traffic arteries to name a few.



With these improved amenities the lives of NYer’s and visitors alike have vastly improved. Access to green space, enhanced mobility and respite, and view corridors has given the city a truly park like feel. Couple this with everyone’s mobile devices enhancing local experiences, and our own cognitive maps I’d say we are being invited to rediscover the city. 

The promise of thoughtful and provocative art installations such as those to be found in Madison Square park and the occasional Banksy pop ups one might also long for the return of the park follies. Architecturally and historically, follies were meant to act as points of reference that help visitors gain a sense of direction and navigate throughout a large space. Follies are different than architecture per se. Historically found in gardens they represented virtues or ideals of a particular era. Today with so many competing interests vying for our attention in the city UDD is proposing the return of the follies. They can further enhance our environment depleted of communicative architecture and structures as the development strives toward a purer version of utility. The 2010 World Expo held in Shanghai is an optimal example of the pleasure derived from such structures, where momentary enlightenment can unfold with respect to one’s immediate environment.

Our respected colleague Chad Oppenhiem recently proposed Governors Island as a World Expo site for 2020 and indeed it’s a compelling notion and use. We’ve taken to the task of sitting the expo as well and well let’s just say “We Think Big”. UDD is proposing that the city work with the private sector to identify vacant and or underutilized sites throughout the city and earmark a selection of them along with public park space as 2020 sites for the World Expo NY 2020.

In keeping with the theme of the World Expo, NY 2020 would again innovate and broaden the experience allowing visitor to tour the greater city through its multiple follie / pavilion sites as opposed to previously utilized theme of one central site. The respective countries and their follie / pavilion designers would now have the unique opportunity to design a NY site specific response as they interpret the 2020 theme. Imagine the creative responses and spectacular unions generated when contemplating neighboring NY’s diverse and iconic building stock and public spaces. Actually you don’t have to we’ve done it for you.

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