Ted Whitten, Architect & Writer
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During architecture school and in the several years afterward, I collaborated with friends on a variety of architectural competitions. We had varying degrees of success, and while we were disappointed when we didn’t win, we never quite expected to. The point was to try out our growing skills on a wider range of issues than our day-jobs provided. We were finalists in one competition, but otherwise the yield was some images for our portfolios and some long all-nighters.

Envisioning Gateway, 2007

I collaborated with Andrew Cocke and Sonya Hals on “Envisioning Gateway,” a competition of ideas sponsored by the Van Alen institute in New York City. The goal was to imagine a use for Floyd Bennet Field, an historic airfield in Jamaica Bay, Queens, in the midst of Gateway National Park, a surprisingly large wildlife refuge adjacent to JFK Airport. Our solution was a menu of ideas about returning the airfield to its natural state and interventions that could preserve the shoreline and generate power for the city.

Collage of campsites in restored wetlands with wind turbines in the background (Sonya Hals)

World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition, 2003

Andrew Cocke, Sonya Hals, and I contributed a proposal to memorialize the site of the 9/11 attacks, a competition that received over 5,000 entries, many from nonprofessionals. We had a variety of ideas for the sprawling site, but the most compelling was a pair of reflecting pools marking the footprints of the twin towers. Scattered across the pools were slender metal lampposts, one for each victim.

Reflecting pool with lights,9/11 Memorial Competition (Sonya Hals)

Reflecting pool model (Andrew Cocke)

TKTS Competition, 1999

The TKTS Competition, sponsored by the Van Alen Institute, was a chance to reimagine the TKTS Booth in the center of Times Square, a small building that sold discounted tickets to Broadway shows and attracted a swarm of tourists every afternoon. The winning design would be built—and in fact was. Our entry used the infrastructure of Times Square as a stepping off point—crossing streets and avenues, subways, pipes, and conduits. This “knot” of material inspired our continuous ribbon of perforated metal wrapping a bank of glass box offices.

Model of "knot" looking southwest, Times Square, NYC (Andrew Cocke)

Peep Show Competition, 2002

Sonya Hals and I were finalists in the Peep Show Competition, an annual event sponsored by the ArtCity Festival in Calgary, Alberta. The task was to design a moveable art viewing space. Our proposal was to create an apparatus that could easily be installed in narrow urban spaces, either enclosing space or providing a surface for projection. We called it “gALLErY”. (Get it?)

gALLErY installed in a skyway

Physical model, Peep Show Competition