The Alar

New York



Marin Architects was challenged by the Fisher Brothers' "Beyond The Centerline" design competition to re-envision Park Avenue's median spaces. From over 150 submissions, ours, The Alar, was selected as one of 17 finalists.

New York City's Park Avenue was once simply known as Fourth Avenue and carried a busy parade of trains. As the city was developed, portions of the tracks were sunk and the grassy areas that grew in their place led to the thoroughfare being renamed Park Avenue. But Park Avenue has never resembled a park.

Park Avenue is used as a main thoroughfare to travel through the city, heading uptown or downtown and leading to Grand Central Terminal, Central Park, and the Queensborough Bridge. On weekdays, corporate America fills the sidewalks and on weekends it's nearly devoid of life. Despite attractions such as St. Bart's, the Waldorf Astoria, the Seagram Building, or the pièce de résistance – Grand Central Terminal – Park Avenue ceases to be a "destination" point of New York City.

At the present, Grand Central Terminal is used to get to other parts of the city. The intent of The Alar is to bring people to Grand Central and convince them to stay – to encourage the enjoyment of Park Avenue from beginning to end, making it a hub for tourists and residents alike to experience the avenue from a different perspective.

Somewhat resembling a spine, The Alar is designed to be a metaphorical backbone to help guide pedestrians in reconnecting with the different components, both seen and unseen, that make up the body of New York City. Its literally dynamic structure will offer pedestrians different vantage points of Park Avenue and the surrounding area that will not have been seen before.

Inspired by the Mimosa Pudica plant, the "leaves" of The Alar's towers offer a unique connection between the subterranean and the world above ground, closing and reopening in reaction to the movement of the passing trains below that are so integral to the history of Park Avenue.

The undulation of The Alar's walkways, winding through greenery, mimics the natural form of the earth's surface, while the varying heights of the towers mimic the jagged teeth of the surrounding skyline, bringing together the built city and the natural world as one.

Though bold and futuristic in its design, the dynamic, responsive, and sculptural qualities of The Alar are intended to enhance, rather than intrude upon the existing surroundings. The curvature of The Alar's paths was specifically designed to work around notable features of Park Avenue, such as the plaza of the Seagram Building, so that they may be appreciated from a different vantage point. This continuous path along Park Avenue, beginning at Grand Central Terminal, elevates the pedestrian above the street for a sublime experience and previously unseen view of the avenue and its landmarks.

The Alar will consist of a ground-level walkway comprised of stone pavers. A structured metal frame will support the raised walkways, which will be built from a combination of structural metal, and metal or wood decking. The walkway will be bordered by a glass railing that will be illuminated by LED lights at night. The towers of The Alar will be constructed from metal posts, with its "leaves" made from lightweight metal and perforated metal panels.

Like the Mimosa Pudica plant, stimuli from the pressure of each passing train will be transmitted by sensors in the train tracks, causing The Alar to come to life, its leaves to close and the reopen. At night, LED lighting installed along the edges of the leaves will illuminate to create a light show, creating an abstract connection with the underground.

With the addition of The Alar, Park Avenue will become a more synchronous space for pedestrians, cars, flora, fauna, architecture, art, bicycles, commerce, trains, and the natural elements all to exist and interact at once. We are reminded that people, nature, art, and technology can all coexist in harmony, if we allow it. The concept of The Alar was developed on the premise that the city can communicate with us, and thus, no two experiences will be quite alike, allowing for a continuous reinvention of Park Avenue.