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Foster’s NYC Globe Theater Goes Once More Unto the Breach

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Images courtesy New Globe Theater.


Governor’s Island, a 172-acre landmass in New York Harbor, became the city’s largest blank slate for development when the federal government, which had used the island as a military base since the Revolution, sold most of it to New York state and city in 2003. The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation shortlisted five teams to suggest master plans earlier this year—but many others are still eyeing the island with dreams of their own. A public ideas session on Tuesday provided hope for one such additional scheme, designed by Foster & Partners.

This week’s hearing was called by the National Park Service, which maintains a 22-acre park on the island. The agency would like to preserve a 186-year-old military fort there as a memorial to service personnel, but it is open to other ideas. A hearing this week, part of a national “listening” tour soliciting projects to fund for the Park Service’s 2016 centennial, provided an opportunity for these ideas to be heard—including a proposal by Barbara Romer, a well-connected Shakespeare buff, who would like to build a re-imagined Globe Theater inside the fort. Her vision has inspired Michael Wurzel, of Foster & Partners, who produced a design that Romer has been using to raise money and excitement.

Wurzel explained that a replica of Shakespeare’s theater, which historic records suggest had a 90-foot diameter, would fit inside a 120-foot-wide structure called Castle Williams “like a hand in a glove.” He added that project provides an opportunity to marry historic buildings with sustainable design. The castle’s six-foot-thick stone walls would help moderate indoor temperatures while a thatched roof, with a sun-screen of angled glass panels, would cut down on solar glare.

Although this vision for a re-imagined Globe has attracted supporters including the actor Ralph Fiennes, even they admit that the plan is a long shot. The park service’s listening tour continues until April 2 and it will make final decisions regarding the centennial projects by May 31. An agency spokesperson later told Record that even if it fails to select the Globe for funding now, the project could still move forward as part of a larger plan for the park that will be announced this summer. But what if Governor’s Island fails to become a stage for the New Globe—would other sites in New York City work? “We’re not discussing that now,” Romer said at the hearing.

Alec Appelbaum