Over time the St Vincent’s Hospital has been a beacon of care for New York City’s poor, downtrodden, outcasts, and everything in-between. Handling epidemics dating as far back as the Cholera Epidemic of 1849, St. Vincent’s stood as a beacon of hope in what was often a hopeless place. That is all over now. The hospital has lost it’s battle of survival to corruption. But it’s accomplishments will live on. It’s memory will preserve the spirit of helping those in dire straits in the form of an AIDS memorial. Situated on 7th avenue, the memorial will occupy a small triangular city block that used to be a part of the hospital. After an extensive design competition the winner has been chosen. The simplicity of the design made the purpose of the memorial clear.
In the world of architecture, a memorial presents it’s own unique challenges. The point is always to convey an emotion that provokes thought, reflection, and remembrance. The winning design by Studio A+i embraces the thoughtfulness and introspection a good memorial embodies. Their solution is to present an infinite forest in a small space. By placing white birch trees in the center of the park surrounded with mirrored walls they introduces the idea of seclusion, which induces introspection. The reflection of the mirrored walls create the illusion of a forest, a place to get lost in thought. I personally think this memorial elegantly creates a lovely park and an effective memorial.
While the hospital itself was mired in controversy in it’s last years, and will undoubtedly be the subject and an example of corruption for years to come. There was a time when St. Vincent’s was ground zero for the AIDS epidemic. When the HIV/AIDS crisis was revealing itself to be the monster that it was, St. Vincent’s was bursting at the seams with those affected. By 1988 The hospital was handling nearly 25,000 cases and over 14,000 deaths from AIDS. As time marches on the turmoil that dominated St. Vincent’s will dissipate. The trees that grow in remembrance of the brave work that St. Vincent’s did will replace the negatives. The Hospital in the long run will be remembered for it’s positive service thanks to an infinite forest in the middle of Manhattan.