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Designers Selected for Coney Island’s New Parachute Pavilion


Images Courtesy Van Alen Institute and Coney Island Development Corporation

London-based architects Kevin Carmody, Andrew Groarke, Chris Hardie, and Lewis Kinneir have won a competition to create a “Parachute Pavilion” adjacent to the Coney Island Boardwalk’s famous Parachute Jump.

The competition, launched in 2004 by the Van Alen Institute, a New York organization dedicated to improving the public realm, and by the Coney Island Development Corporation, attracted over 850 entrees from 46 countries. It is part of ongoing efforts to revitalize the once-flagging neighborhood, including a renovated subway station and a new baseball park.

“It’s the first of hopefully many things to come,” notes Jonathan Cohen-Litant, program manager at the Van Alen Institute.

The pavilion will include a 7,800-square-foot, glass-enclosed structure lit up by a dense pattern of light bulbs, a high-ceilinged exhibition space, a restaurant, a bar, and a souvenir shop. The structure will be cantilevered above a public space, providing shade, and the surface will be multicolored and bright, evoking the cheer of Coney Island’s historic amusement park.

“It is a very sensitive and special design, sort of magical in a way,” explains Cohen-Litant. “It fits very well with the history of Coney Island, especially in reference to the light bulbs.”

Carmody and Groarke have collaborated in designing Dolce & Gabbana stores around the world. Along with Hardie, they also won Chicago’s 2004 Burnham Prize for their design of a trio of water-taxi stations. Kinneir recently joined the team.

The Parachute Jump was designed for military training, but never used for this purpose. Its inventor, James Strong, received a license to construct and operate the jump at the 1939 World’s Fair. The ride was moved to Steeplechase Park at Coney Island in 1941, and operated as a ride until 1968. The New York State Development Corporation spent $5 million to renovate the tower in 2003.

Ilan Kayatsky