Riis Park Plaza
Located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Riis Park Plaza was designed by M. Paul Friedberg in 1965. Once a formal mall with inaccessible expanses of lawn and little functional open space, Friedberg’s design transformed the residential open space landscape and offered a lively, community-focused alternative. Long celebrated as a seminal urban open space, Riis Park Plaza was instrumental in challenging postwar perceptions of urban living while also democratizing public open space for existing residents.
Rather than define a rigid program through his design, Friedberg’s approach gave agency to the residents. At the center of this design intent was the amphitheater - offering residents an open venue to gather and empower each other, the amphitheater honed in on what the Riis Houses were lacking - a vibrant community space.
Equally important to Friedberg’s design were the notions of discovery and the play “experience” - Riis Park Plaza employed a series of custom play features that offered a variety of experiences for children, inspiring creativity and stimulating cognitive development. In contrast to the static playgrounds of the era, Friedberg developed a cohesive play “experience” with features leading to one and another - unified as a whole by materiality and placement, the playgrounds at Riis Park Plaza brought a transformative livelihood to what was formerly a rigid, underutilized open space.
As a significant landmark in MPFP’s legacy, Friedberg’s unique, community-focused design approach would continue to provide a wealth of vibrant public open spaces throughout New York City and beyond.
New York, NY
Residential; Playgrounds; Parks
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