Parachute Pavilion Inspires Delirious Designs

At the Van Alen Institute’s Parachute Pavilion exhibition, over 100 design proposals are mounted on boards jutting from the gallery wall like the pages of a giant sketchbook. Leafing through them reveals a dizzying array of ideas—ranging from the pragmatic to the fanciful to the bizarre—for a new pavilion that will sit in the shadow of Coney Island’s famous Parachute Jump.

The exhibition—on display through the end of October—is but a selection of the 864 proposals submitted to the Parachute Pavilion design competition earlier this year. Sponsored by the Van Alen Institute and the Coney Island Development Corporation, the competition invited designers from around the world to envision a vital new public space for a key piece of Coney Island real estate: the wedge of land connecting KeySpan Park—home of the Brooklyn Cyclones—to the boardwalk and the pier. Above the site looms the 262-foot-tall Parachute Jump, Coney Island’s tallest structure and a potent reminder of its amusement park heritage.

Designers were asked to engage the concept of the pavilion as a place where recreational and commercial spaces intersect; to that end, the pavilion had to be a year-round recreational attraction that also included space for a store, offices, and a restaurant. In addition, zoning restrictions limited the structure’s height to a maximum of 30 feet, giving designers a small space in which to realize big ambitions.

The competition succeeded in attracting a wealth of elegant, unexpected, and sometimes zany solutions to real-life design problems—a result that encourages optimism not just for the revitalization of Coney Island but for similar projects in the future. In fact, the Van Alen Institute has already launched a new international design competition: Urban Voids: Grounds for Change, which is currently accepting registrants, invites ideas for solving the crisis of urban abandonment and extensive sprawl afflicting Philadelphia.

Categories: Cities