By Drew Davis
Louis Kahn is a great architect. See past blog post. What’s more, there is a recently completed project by the late Louis Kahn right here in NYC. On the southern tip of Roosevelt Island stands the FDR Four Freedoms Park commemorating a speech given by FDR to Congress and the American people in 1941. The speech outlined the reasons for the United States to become involved in World War II. In it, FDR listed core American values and essential human freedoms worth our endeavor as a country. The Four Freedoms speech was a turning point in American history.
View of Four Freedoms Park from the East River
Louis Kahn envisioned the monument to FDR’s speech as made up of two parts: a park and a room. The north end of the monument is the park – which, to Louis, represented the American countryside, and to the south is the room, the most fundamental act of architecture. You enter the monument on the north side and go up a grand set of granite steps.
Four Freedoms Park allée of trees
After ascending the steps, you arrive at the top of the park, on either side of the park are rows of modestly scaled trees forming an allée. At the south end of the park, on center with the allée of trees is a bust of FDR.
Bust of FDR
Behind the bust of FDR lies the "room" made of colossal slabs of granite with the Four Freedoms carved into them.
Granite slab with Four Freedoms
After reading the Four Freedoms, one finds themselves in the spare, tranquil granite room, facing the river and the enormity of Manhattan’s lower east side in the distance.
And don’t forget to notice the wonderfully considered details. I could imagine Louis Kahn asking the granite "what do you like?" and the granite replying, "I like solidarity".