NEWARK VISITORS’ CENTER PROJECT STATEMENT
WE ARE ALL VISITORS IN THE FUTURE
Newark is a living, dynamic organism. As such, the Newark Visitors’ Center (NVC) should be a place to explore Newark’s future as well as its past.
The present is an uninhabitable moment between the past and future. The past is known. The future is formless. The future can occur (or be constructed) in any direction. As such, there are an infinite number of permutations the future can assume at any given moment.
The construction of a building defines a given permutation of the future and concretizes it, or makes it past, based on the contingencies (among others) of site, program and history.
The NVC is conceived as a temporal frame, a place that gives the present a habitable dimension by framing the city’s past and future. The temporal frame consists of the public zone and is organized as a series of concentric surfaces and spaces that represent the past, present and future. The public zone is enclosed by glass on all sides, affording occupants a 360˚ view of the city.
All perceptions of time are a function of distance. Therefore, just as looking at light from distant stars is looking back in time, so viewing the city from the public zone is looking at the immediate past. The NVC frames multiple views of the city’s immediate and distant past.
The empty space inside the core of the public zone represents Newark’s future. This multi-use space can be employed as a conference center, public meeting room, exhibition gallery and/or theater. It provides a place for the city’s inhabitants to form the future of Newark.
As a practical necessity, we utilize the present as a temporal frame of reference that includes both the past and future. The uninhabitable moment of the present is given space between the exterior envelope and the core of the public zone. It is, philosophically and literally, the place from which Newark’s past and future can be examined.
Newark’s history informs the design of the NVC. While the project makes several references to historical forms, it does not engage in formal or stylistic mimicry. References to the nearby Penn Station rail bridge and elements of the Morris Canal are evident in the design, but are subsumed into the conceptual whole. Newark’s moniker as the “Gateway City” originates with the Morris Canal, which facilitated Newark’s early industrial growth. The canal once traversed the project site, and its approximate location is marked by an excavated promenade that runs the length of the site. This promenade connects the main structure of the NVC with a permanent exhibit that documents the importance of the canal in Newark’s history.
By informing visitors of Newark’s rich past, its vibrant present and the unlimited possibilities for its future, the NVC is an engine for the city’s growth.