In partnership with

Grand Army Plaza Coalition

Community Collaborator

Center for Urban Pedagogy [CUP]

Project Area: Brooklyn

Photo: Triborough Photography

Reinventing Grand Army Plaza generated over 200 innovative ideas from around the world to transform the Plaza into the magnificent public space it was originally intended to be. 


Reinventing Grand Army Plaza's many proposals – and the success of the exhibit itself – convincingly made the case for a comprehensive redevelopment of this historic Plaza and awakened a sense of possibility.

The NYC Department of Transportation has since implemented several key changes to the Plaza, resulting in fewer car accidents and increased foot traffic through the center of the Plaza:

  • Added 1.5 acres of new pedestrian space
  • A reconfigured traffic pattern
  • Created new pedestrian islands
  • Installed a new traffic signal to increase pedestrian access to the center of the Plaza
  • Marked crosswalks with new pedestrian signage
  • Added protective granite blocks as barriers to vehicular traffic
  • Created new designated bike lanes


Designed in 1867 by Olmsted and Vaux, Grand Army Plaza is a magnificent 11-acre public space, home to the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch, the elegant Bailey Fountain, the Greenmarket, and the entrance to Prospect Park. Despite its identity as the historic, cultural, and geographic heart of Brooklyn, hazardous conditions for pedestrians and cyclists today impede access to neighborhoods, cultural institutions, and prevent use of the Plaza itself. 

GAPCo, an alliance of community groups and cultural institutions, responded to our 2007 RFP with a proposal to create a new schematic plan for Grand Army Plaza to make it safer, friendlier to pedestrians, and more efficient as a major traffic thoroughfare. 


To lay the groundwork for a new master plan, the Design Trust recommended the project's first phase be an ideas competition to attract visionary designs for transforming the Plaza. The purpose of beginning the project this way was to draw local and international attention to this beautiful, underused public space, quickly generate a wide range of design solutions, raise public awareness of the Plaza's challenges and possibilities, and enable time for GAPCo to build constituency with community members and elected officials to advocate for the Plaza's rebirth as one of the city's greatest public spaces.

The Reinventing Grand Army Plaza ideas competition launched in February 2008 and resulted in over 200 bold visions from around the world. A distinguished, independent jury judged the submissions through an anonymous review, and selected the top 30 proposals to be included in the public exhibit, along with the 4 prizewinning designs.

For one month, these plans were on view in a free, outdoor public exhibit in the center of the Plaza where residents of the surrounding neighborhoods could envision a transformed Grand Army Plaza while standing right on site. People poured into the center of the Plaza like never before to see and discuss the proposals – spirited conversations could be heard every day. 

Following the exhibit, we produced a final publication that showcases the top design schemes and recommends steps that GAPCo and the community can take to achieve the goal of a comprehensive renovation. This book is meant to be a tool for the community, civic leaders, government officials, and concerned citizens to galvanize support for a reinvented Grand Army Plaza. 

I would also like to thank the Design Trust for Public Space for their innovative approach to community-based planning, and partnering with GAPCo to realize the plaza’s full potential as a world-class but uniquely Brooklyn icon…You have answered the question which is: ‘can’t we all get along?’ And clearly today the answer is ‘yes.’

Councilwoman Laetitia James, Reinventing Grand Army Plaza press conference

Key Milestones

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11

Select project

September 2007

Robert Witherwax and Michael Cairl from the Grand Army Plaza Coalition present their proposal to the Design Trust project selection jury. 

Define scope

October 2007

Together with GAPCo, we decide that an ideas competition will be the most effective strategy to lay the groundwork for a re-designed Grand Army Plaza. 

Illustration: Claudia Brandenburg

Conduct research

November 2007

Design Trust staff begins researching the history of Grand Army Plaza and the surrounding area, interviewing local residents, and documenting current conditions. 

Photo: Odin Cappello

Launch ideas competition

February 2008

The competition website launches, encouraging designers, architects and artists from around the world to create visionary designs for transforming the Plaza. 

Jury selects winners

May 2008

The competition jury reviews over 200 ideas, selecting 30 proposals for the exhibit and three prizewinners. 

Photo: Leslie McBeth

Educational programming

May 2008

The Center for Urban Pedagogy leads a special program about Grand Army Plaza for high-school students at The Bushwick Academy of Urban Planning. 

Photo: Leslie McBeth

Mount public exhibit

September 2008

Working with local carpenters and fabricators, we install our exhibit of the top 30 proposals in the center of Grand Army Plaza. 

Photo: Chris Kannen

Opening day celebration

September 2008

Crowds pour into the center of Grand Army Plaza like never before for the exhibit's opening day celebration. 

Photo: Triborough Photography

Synthesize and produce

February 2009

We produce a publication to showcase the top 30 designs and outline the next steps the community can take towards implementation. 


November 2011

Two years later, the NYC Dept. of Transportation unveils several improvements to Grand Army Plaza, including new designated bike lanes and...

Photo: NYC Dept. of Transportation


November 2011

...resurfaced streets with new markings and a reconfigured traffic pattern. 

Photo: NYC Dept. of Transportation