The Great Wall of Central Park
Christopher J. Nolan details the dilemma between preserving the original path leading up to Belvedere Castle and designing a more accessible incline to meet federal requirements for access for disabled people.
The terrain poses a challenge. Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, who designed Belvedere Castle, positioned it atop Vista Rock, a huge outcropping of bedrock. The present path is about 150 feet long, but the closer it gets to the castle, the steeper it becomes. The planned walkway would stretch the rise over the entire walkway, making the ascent gentler. There would be waist-high parapet walls on either side of the walkway.
Battles in historic preservation often turn on matters of materials and finishes. This one may come down to what the part of the walkway facing the Great Lawn looks like — the “great wall” part, in Mr. Grunewald’s view. Christopher J. Nolan, the conservancy’s chief landscape architect, said that has not been decided, and Lane Addonizio, the conservancy’s vice president for planning and program management, said there were aspects of the plan that were still preliminary
Mr. Nolan said creating a modern walkway was “a very complicated technical exercise” because the way to the castle is so steep. He and Lane Addonizio, the conservancy’s associate vice president for planning, said the path was the best way in. Access from the Shakespeare Garden, west of the castle, is “possible but not practical,” Mr. Nolan said, and “would require a rather heavy hand in the Shakespeare Garden.”
He said the present approach along the path was “unceremonious,” and Ms. Addonizio said the path was “not the premier example of an Olmstedian path.”
“It’s not unprecedented for Olmsted to use straight lines where they were required,” Mr. Nolan said, citing the reservoir wall that existed when the park was designed. It was where the Great Lawn is now, and even after the reservoir was drained in the 1920s, people strolled along the long, straight wall that remained until the 1930s.
– James Barron, New York Times
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Plan for Inclined Path in Central Park Worries Preservationists, New York Times