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“A memorial should be a room and a garden” [L.I.KHAN]

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms State Park is a little gem in the heart of NY; a Memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt located in the southern tip of Roosevelt Island conceived by Khan one year before his death and open to the public since 2014 after 30 months of construction. It is the power of Kahn’s architecture that allowed it to be built nearly 40 years after it was designed. Kahn’s work, in my opinion, seems “timeless”, even though it marks its time it always seems to transcend it in a way that it transcends time itself.

For the Memorial Khan presented a simple idea but dense of meaning: “a memorial […] a room and a garden.
So once I arrived approaching from North I found myself in front of a monumental staircase leading up to a long lawn, it was the time of the “garden“. This long lawn flanked by twin rows of trees was unexpected, it gradually sloped downwards as it narrowed toward the central focal point of the granite “piazza” where Roosevelt’s sculpture is contained. The sculpture, together with this lawn and stair represents the symbolic threshold of the “room”: a three-sided granite room that opens to the sky above and the water ahead, embracing the city. In this room one can sense that its openness to the world is balanced with the stability and solidity of its walls’ thickness (six-foot deep blocks of granite). It’s a place with its own dimension, where space and time, especially in a city like NYC, seem to stop, appear to be crystallized. A place where you can both contemplate, establishing an intimate relationship with the city, but at the same time feel as much part of the city. You have both a feeling of looking inward and outward.

This was a spot I particularly loved and felt connected to: an intimate and fascinating spot with no time, that gives you the power to feel protected while being part of NYs’ bigness.

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. [Louis I. Khan, Excerpt from a lecture given at Pratt Institute, 1973]

Giulia Pierotti

Intern at Space4 ArchitectureNew York

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