OMA (Rem Koolhaas)

New Welfare Island, 1975

New Welfare Island was a project for the south of Roosevelt Island, formerly called Welfare Island—situated between Manhattan and Queens, then used in the retroactive manifesto Delirious New York. The Manhattan grid, and more precisely the one between 50th and 59th streets, is extended by eight blocks beyond the East River over the southern part of Welfare Island. Each one of these blocks was entrusted to an architect working independently of the others. In Koolhaas’s own words, the project “claims to revive and reinterpret some of the architectural features of Manhattan, in particular the mixture of popular and metaphysical elements and an unrivalled spectacular dimension”: a convention centre was installed to the north of the moving walkway which followed the course of the river. To the south, the unoccupied lots were meant to posthumously accommodate projects proposed for Manhattan, including an Architecton by Malevich. Lower down came an interior harbour, a yacht and a Chinese swimming pool. On the southern tip of the island, on one block, stood the Palace of Welfare Hotel, nothing less than a city within the city, made up of seven high-rise and two low-rise buildings facing the RCA in Manhattan. Each high-rise building contained a club at the top, whose theme was related to the symbolic vocation of the ground-floor areas. Between Manhattan and Welfare Island sailed a gigantic Radeau de la Méduse, “a synthesis and illustration of the convulsions in the midst of which lies the Manhattan-metropolis struggle, a symbol of the necessity to escape and the impossibility of doing so” (Rem Koolhaas).

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