“Taking a parking lot away allowed us to bring back the original Olmsted and Vaux design,” said lead architect Christian Zimmerman as he opened the gate to the waterfront area of the future Lakeside Center. Zimmerman was fresh off giving us a tour of the skating facility, and appeared intent to not miss a beat.
This is true for some of the materials – quite literally. After knocking the old rink down, the construction crew found stone and metal buried underneath. The architects decided to redesign the area to match the old layout.
This is also true for the visual experience. ”This view of that hill was gone for fifty years,” said Zimmerman as we took in the distant bluff of Lookout Hill, Prospect Park’s highest point.
Where originals were unavailable, Zimmerman’s team resorted to copies based on photographs from the 19th century. One example is the filials atop the stone joints in the picture above; there are also six urns, bronze with a stainless steel cast, standing guard over three different staircases to the water level. Each urn cost $45,000.
As we walked around the fenced-off site, other park users found their way in – but not through the gate. Zimmerman informed a pair of teenagers with rods that fishing was acceptable in other places (and not by sneaking through a hole in an obvious barrier). He was more lenient with a few four-year-olds wearing birthday hats playing near the urns.
A highlight is a memorial listing the Brooklyn residents who “gave their lives for liberty and universal peace” in the Great War. The curved structure, dedicated in 1921, features a haunting representation of the Angel of Death whispering in a soldier’s ear. It’s a striking difference from the commemorative sculpture in Highland Park.
Wollman Rink is slated to open in December, but Zimmerman is hopeful that the grounds will be available before then. Unfortunately, recent storms have done damage to the waterfront.
At the south end, in view of the gazebo, is the boat-launching area. Electric paddle boats – and possibly kayaks – will be available for rent. (Private vessels will be off-limits.) Zimmerman’s crew had to extend the land at this location to make the grade to the waterfront ADA-compliant. We were surprised to learn that no soil was brought in for the project.
While the waterfront here looks like the perfect place for a summer party, grilling will be prohibited. But there’s good news for my fellow cyclists – the Lakeside Center will have bike racks galore. As Zimmerman said: “We just figured we’d need a lot of that.”
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