t. joseph surjan

t. joseph surjan

Chicago, IL, US


Whispers to Washington - 'Designing for Free Speech’ challenge

Whispers to Washington – ( conceptual ground )


the WHY.

The 1st Amendment is a living thing, growing and changing everyday. The 5.2 million tress of New York City symbolize both the freedoms of the 1st amendment and its’ citizens. Before New York City was settled by the Dutch, five trees in the boroughs were mere saplings, waiting to grow along with the city and the country. These five trees, one in each borough, are the oldest and tallest living things in New York City. Three of the five trees have even been named the following by the city : The Dinosaur, The Clove Park Colossus and The Queens Giant. Our project will assemble five tree-like canopies, representing each of the oldest trees as a haven for the 1st amendment in Washington Square Park. The tree canopies of New York City shade roughly one-quarter of the city. Shade is the space of the 1st amendment, acting as a protective arbor, a roof formed by trees, allowing all citizens of America a place to gather and express their 1st amendment rights. The five newly constructed canopies will each be built to the exact heights of the five oldest living trees in New York City. The shade the new canopies produces will acoustically whisper to millions. The shade under any living tree in America will come to be known as the space of the 1st amendment. Everyday citizens will relax in the shade and their voices will whisper the timeless volumes of freedom.


Whispers to Washington – ( reclaimed ground )

the HOW.

George Washington found comfort in the shade of the tree known as “The Dinosaur” during the Revolutionary War. The Dinosaur is estimated to be at least 300 years old and is a 110 foot tall English Elm at the corner of 163rd Street & Saint Nicholas Avenue. In the New York City park named after him, citizens will express the freedoms of the 1st Amendment in the shade of five new canopies. The new canopies will encircle the area around the Washington Square fountain forming an arbor about which free speech will revolve.
Washington Square Park’s history was transformed in the late 1950s and early 1960s by an act of free speech. A group of Greenwich Village residents lead by Jane Jacobs protested Robert Moses’s extension of 5th Avenue through the park. “Save the Square” campaign lead to the preservation of the park and the removal of all vehicular traffic from its boundaries. The free speech of “Save the Square” is a touchstone event for the citizens of New York City and created the opportunity to gather freely under the protection of the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment allowed citizens to present their own proposal for Washington Square Park and therefore reclaiming former streets as new public space for the city. This reclaimed ground is where the 1st Amendment will be symbolically planted to establish a space of shade where voices at the level of a whisper will be heard by all.


Whispers to Washington – ( sheltered ground )

the WHAT.

The five new canopies that represent the oldest living trees in the five boroughs will come to rest in Washington Square Park. The five canopies will be actors in the play of free speech encircling the park’s fountain. The role of the lead actor is played by The Queens Giant, a 134 foot tall Tulip Popular with a circumference of 19 feet. Standing just 20 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty, she will be a living beacon for the 1st Amendment. The Queens Giant, along with The Dinosaur, The Clove Park Colossus and a pair of Oak trees will be recreated in sculpted canopy forms. The sculpted canopy forms will be at five different heights according to the particular trees. The shaded space under the canopies is the sum of individual voices sharing a collective experience. The universal themes of the 1st Amendment will be defined on this sheltered ground in Washington Square Park. The ever changing conditions of shade created here will be a physical reminder echoing the sounds of past, present and future acts of free speech. Each day and night The Queens Giant will whisper her anthem, spreading the 1st Amendment into the aura of New York City’s atmosphere. The Queens Giant, along with her four other actors, are guardians of the 1st Amendment, never sleeping, yet always embracing the new whispers of free speech in the park saved by one of its’ freedoms.

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Washington Square Park, New York City
My Role: writer & designer
Additional Credits: Stephanie H. Fumanelli, designer & digital modeling
Galia Solomonoff, architect & designer