The Endless Gateway — New York, New York

Date: 2017
Status: Proposal
Category: Cultural, Civic
Team: Chris Leong, Dominic Leong, Christopher Lee, Yu-Hsiang Lin, Jessie Baxa
Collaborators: Guy Nordenson and Associates (Structural Engineering), MTWTF (Place Identity)

The Endless Gateway explores fluidity of form in creating an iconic gateway to Chinatown. A “gateway” can be open-ended and flexible, simultaneously honoring tradition while projecting towards the future. Our proposal, The Endless Gateway, is a system of markers that frame the history, activities, and people of Chinatown with a vibrant, sinuous line in space. It acts as a “gateway” to Chinatown and Chinese-American culture by celebrating the character of the community—highlighting the distinct and emotive culture naturally present in the neighborhood.

A primary concern in designing the marker was finding consensus within the community that it authentically and inclusively represents their culture. As seen in other Chinatowns across the country, Chinese culture can be at times simplified and commodified to the point of feeling foreign and inaccurate. Given the diasporic composition of Chinatown, there is an added complication of the value associated with different motifs and themes connected to China. New York’s Chinatown occupies a space in Manhattan that has been constantly renewed with different nationalities of immigrants. The competition brief asked for a series of gateways that could loosely identify the chief entry points to Chinatown. Given the diverse and ever-evolving nature of Chinatown, each Gateway may need to perform differently across the neighborhood. Our proposal provides a flexible system which creates public space to serve community needs for that specific location while maintaining a consistent identity with the other Gateways across Chinatown. The Endless Gateway is designed to be open-ended programmatically and formally to accommodate a diversity of community needs and values.

The marker is a sinuous band in space that extends, wraps, and curls around the programmatic objects at each site. The band is a two-square-foot steel tube coated in bronze. Over time, in a natural oxidation process, the bronze turns a vivid green. In areas of public contact—the seating, surfaces, and columns—the warm bronze texture is exposed, emphasizing the marker as an infrastructure to engage and explore. At times, this sinuous green marker resembles a jade dragon rising from the ground. Other times, it appears like a lion, a ribbon dance, a noodle, or calligraphic stroke. The abstracted formal language of the marker enables a range of associations that evoke motifs within Chinese culture without exploiting them.

The Endless Gateway was a proposal completed in response to the Gateways to Chinatown competition from Chinatown Partnership, Van Alen Institute, and New York City Department of Transportation.