Roosevelt Island, United States, North America
Year1969latitude: 40° 45'
longitude: -73° 56'
Planning organizationNew York State Urban Development Corporation
Nationality initiator(s)
Designer(s) / Architect(s)Philip Johnson
John Burgee
Design organization
Target population18,000
Town website
Town related links
Literature- * Hugh Mields, 'Federally Assisted New Communities. New Dimensions in Urban Development', Washington 1973

type of New Town: > scale of autonomy
New Town
Company Town
> client
Private Corporation
Public Corporation
> policy
It was named Manning's Island after captain John Manning between 1666 and 1686, Blackwell's Island between 1686 and 1921, and Welfare Island between 1921 and 1973. In 1973, the island was renamed again in anticipation of the building of a major United States Presidential Memorial to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Though small, Roosevelt Island has a distinguished architectural history. It has several architecturally significant buildings, and has been the site of numerous important unbuilt architectural competitions and proposals.
The island's masterplan, adopted by the New York State Urban Development Corporation in 1969, was developed by the firm of Philip Johnson and John Burgee. The plan divided the island into three residential communities. The plan is noteworthy because it forbade the use of automobiles on the island. It was intended that residents would park their cars at a large garage and use public transportation to circulate. Another innovation was the plan's development of a 'mini-school system' in which classrooms for the island's public intermediate school were distributed among all the residential developments, in a campus-like fashion (as opposed to being centralized in one large building).
The first phase of Roosevelt Island's development was called 'Northtown.' It consists of four housing complexes: Eastwood, Island House, Rivercross, and Westwood. Rivercross is a Mitchell-Lama co-op, while the rest of the buildings in Northtown are rentals. Eastwood, the largest apartment complex on the island, and Westwood were designed by noted architect Josep Lluis Sert, then dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design. Eastwood, along with Peabody Terrace (in Cambridge, MA), is a prime example of Sert's investigations into high-rise multiple-dwelling residential buildings. It achieves a remarkable level of efficiency by triple-loading corridors with duplex apartment units, such that elevators and public corrdiors are only needed every three floors. Island House and Rivercross were designed by Philip Johnson. The two developments were noteworthy for their use of pre-fabricated cladding systems.
Subsequent phases of the Island's development have been less innovative, architecturally. Northtown Phase II was developed by the Starrett Corporation and was designed by the firm Gruzen Samton in a pseudo-historical post-modern style. It was completed in 1989, over a decade after Northtown. Southtown, also designed by Gruzen Samton, is the third phase of the island's development. It was not started until 1998, and is still in the process of development.
In addition to Louis Kahn's Roosevelt Memorial, the island has also been the site of numerous other architectural speculations. Rem Koolhaas and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture proposed two projects for the Island in his book 'Delirious New York': the Welfare Island Hotel and the Roosevelt Island Redevelopment Proposal (both in 1975-76). That proposal was Koolhaas's entry into a competition held for the development of Northtown Phase II. Other entrants included Peter Eisenman, Robert A. M. Stern, and Oswald Mathias Ungers.
In 2006, ENYA (Emerging New York Architects) made the Island's abandoned southern end the subject of one of its annual competitions.


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