Field trips should be normal experiences in the lives of students. Such occasions permit for off-site learning which often immerses students in settings that embody the work those students could potentially be taking on during their careers. WHSAD offers students opportunities to often take trips to view the architectural vestiges of New York City, and last Thursday offered one of those chances. Students in the architecture club are currently taking on the ambitious project of redesigning the floor-plan of the defunct and decaying Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island. Students are working in cooperation with major firms on a vision to achieve a functioning purpose for this once so important New York City landmark. Below, Junior Reggie Huggins and Sophomore Justin Lopez provide some insights regarding the day.
On November 16 WHSAD’s architecture club went on a trip to the Smallpox Memorial building on Roosevelt Island and took a tour of the site. The Smallpox Memorial opened in 1856 and was meant to house patients with the smallpox disease. Smallpox is a contagious, disfiguring, and often deadly disease that has affected humans for thousands of years. The hospital was designed by James Renwick Jr. He was an American 19th century architect; some even refer to him as the best architect of his time. The hospital later became a maternity and charity hospital training school. Now it is a NYC landmark, but it has become a ruin. It is also next to another important memorial called Four Freedoms Park, which serves as a memorial to Franklin Roosevelt and his ideas of human rights.
We were there from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and had a good amount of time to observe the Smallpox Hospital and Roosevelt memorials. We were taken on a detailed tour to understand the space and why Louis Kahn decided to design the memorial the way he did. The purpose of this trip was to inform WHSAD’s architecture club about what it would be doing with the hospital, to give us a reference as to how big the hospital actually is, and to show us how much space with which we have to work. What we are doing with the hospital is making an interior floor plan for the whole hospital and repurposing it for something new.
Those with whom we are working to complete this project are the Walter B. Melvin Architects; The FDR Four Freedoms Parks Conservancy; Stephen Martin, the Director of Design and Planning for Four Freedoms; and Heather Butts, WHSAD’s Health for Youths partner. This project we are undertaking is possibly one of the largest and most important our club has ever undertaken. We intend to deliver and do our best for our design.