Park gets down to brass tracks with new Third Street entrance

Park gets down to brass tracks with new Third Street entrance
Rendering by Jordan Yamada and Peter Zaharatos

Never mind the bollards — these ones roll away!

Movable granite blocks could one day protect a gateway to Prospect Park, that is, if city officials feel the same way about the design as the Park Slope Civic Council.

The civic group last night chose a plan by architects Jordan Yamada and Peter Zaharatos to beautifully secure the Third Street and Prospect Park West entryway with an iconic design befitting the lush park.

The design, called “Stone Garden,” features 12 granite “megaliths” set into shallow parallel brass tracks. The stones will sit atop roller bearings, and can be moved to prohibit cars entering the park, but also arrayed so that pedestrians and cyclists may pass.

“The idea is to make it a meditative space that respects its surroundings, Zaharatos said.

The inspiration for the design came from sailing stones, a geological phenomenon where rocks glide along a desert or valley floor, leaving an eerie trail behind.

The inspiration clealry did not come from recent efforts to secure public spaces with grotesque and intrusive blast fences or massive bollards, most notoriously at the Long Island Rail Road’s Atlantic Terminal, where a ring of granite sarcophagi protects commuters and appalls aesthetes.

Yamada said that his and Zaharatos’s goal was to protect and serve.

“We want to invite the opportunity for people to interact,” Yamada said.

The entryway was closed to vehicular traffic — except for emergency vehicles — in 2009.

“All we have there now are sad, pathetic police barriers,” said Gilly Youner, a civic trustee. “We thought the contest would improve this.”

The stones are not intended to reference anti-terrorism bollards and planters that stand sentry in front of buildings across the city, the duo insisted.

“These are not repetitive barriers,” Zaharatos said. “Each stone becomes an abstract sculpture.”

So far, the architects have had no conversations with city agencies about their design, which the civic council hopes to fund through private donations, enough at least to build a prototype.

The pair entered the contest in September, and on Wednesday night, was awarded the top prize by the civic council, walking away with a cool $2,000 — and the chance to have their work become a part of the urban landscape.

Runner-ups included “Tree Grove,” which referenced the neighborhood’s wrought iron fences, and “Third Street Arches,” which blocks and invites traffic at once.

At the Third Street entrance, most parkgoers thought the design was a charming addition to an otherwise mundane entryway, which on a frigid Wednesday afternoon was blocked by a “Do Not Enter Except for Bikes” movable barrier, one half of it carelessly toppled over.

“It is certainly something more visually interesting than what’s there now,” said Brigitta Starin. “Plus, it’s nice to have art projects around the city.”

Peter Lopez agreed. “It’s way better than this,” he said, pointing to the sloppy blockade. Besides, he added, the design seems particularly suited to its surroundings. “It’s not like it’s totally changing the whole park. It’s great how it’s not too gaudy.”

But some were perplexed.

“It kind of looks like a memorial to something,” said Fourth Place resident Terry Kogan. “It would be nice if it was for the Brooklyn Museum, but for the park? I don’t get it.”