An ambitious plan to create a 10-story bike storage Ferris wheel towering over the Smith-Ninth Street F-train station was narrowly defeated in an architecture competition by a less-spectacular, but admittedly more-realistic, design on Monday night.
The losing design, by HOK Sport, envisioned a huge steel wheel that would have completely encircled the elevated F line — Brooklyn’s answer to St. Louis’s Gateway Arch, except that the inside of the structure would have stored bikes in a rotating system of “pods.”
“We wanted to produce an icon that represented biking and turn Red Hook into the biking center of New York City,” explained the team’s head architect, Christopher Lee.
Alas, the grandiose plan finished second in a design competition sponsored by the Forum for Urban Design, a Manhattan-based group that received roughly 60 submissions to reimagine Red Hook as a bike-centric neighborhood.
Judges praised HOK’s design as “innovative, if unpractical,” and instead awarded the $10,000 prize to Jonathan Rule, a 28-year old Brooklyn native, citing his more-subtle plan that would build bike “kiosk/nodes” all over the neighborhood.
In Rule’s plan, each “node” would include vending machines, air pumps, and maps of the area.
Other losing designs included bike-centric shopping malls and a velodrome.
Brooklynites are just learning to tolerate the huge volumes of bike traffic, but the six-month long competition sought to go further than mere tolerance.
“We’re interested in propelling the idea [of a bike-centric neighborhood], and making it happen in Red Hook,” said Lisa Chamberlain, executive director of Forum for Urban Design.
So why Red Hook?
“It’s pretty isolated, and it’s underserved by public transportation, so it seemed like a really good place for something bike-related,” said Chamberlain.
Even with the plan selected and the prize awarded, Red Hook riders might want to withhold celebration. Like the recent contest to redesign Grand Army Plaza, there is no official sanction by the city, and no guarantee that the plan will be developed.
The winning and not-so-winning designs are on display at ffud.org.