For almost 100 years, Coney Island was the most popular seaside destination in the United States. Each year, millions escaped the heat of New York City to savor the thrills of the Cyclone roller coaster and Wonder Wheel at the Astroland amusement park. They came to sample an original Nathan's Famous hot dog, witness the first demolition derby, or to take a chance at a game of three-card Monte on the legendary boardwalk. The advent of air-conditioning, concerns about Coney's "tawdry" entertainment, and faster transportation to other beaches hastened the demise of what had become a uniquely American icon of entertainment and a defining terminus of New York at the water's edge.
In an effort to revitalize the area, the Van Alen Institute, in concert with the Coney Island Development Corporation, held the Parachute Pavilion Competition, a contest to design a year-round pavilion in the shadow of the Parachute Jump, a landmark built for the 1939 World's Fair. Coney Island: The Parachute Pavilion Competition presents all 864 submissions--from the feasible to the fantastic--received from around the world. The winning design by London-based Carmody Groarke Hardie is a mesmerizing attraction in its own right, composed of two provocative trapezoids illuminated by thousands of colored light bulbs. The design respects the historic icon under which it is located but also promises to become an icon in its own right and bring the fun-loving spirit of Coney Island into the twenty-first century. Featuring essays, photographic documentation, and jury comments, Coney Island: The Parachute Pavilion Competition is a critical resource for students, designers, city officials, and anyone interested in Coney Island and the reinvention of the historic recreation sites of our cities.
Zoe Ryan is Senior Curator at the Van Alen Institute, a non-profit public art and architecture organization committed to improving the design of the public realm. Ryan is also editor of the Van Alen Report, the Institute's quarterly journal. She joined the Institute in Fall 2000 to lead research, publication, and exhibition projects. Her writing on art and design has featured in The Architect's Newspaper, Blueprint, Contemporary, Monument, Icon and Abitare. She lives in NYC.