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The site we chose to intervene is the railway shed at the Central Terminal of New Jersey constructed in 1889. With close traffic connection to the Ellis Island, which originally was the Immigration inspection center started 1892, it served as a melting point for commuters, travelers, as well as immigrants beginning their journeys in America. It is reflective of the era of massive structural change and a symbol of unity and liberty in the US. Despite the terminal itself having already been converted into a museum, the railway shed has remained vacant since the train traffic ceased in 1964. Prohibited for public access, the shed today lost its luster and presents only a shadow of its former use.
The goal of this design is to preserve collective memories by maintaining its architectural gesture and to infuse new meaning to this existent urban void by creating a cultural center based on the idea of it being a melting point. The cultural center is to serve the local community by providing spaces of gathering and leisure and to be an icon embracing the value of unity and liberty not only for the city of New Jersey but also for the country of the US.
The art gallery inside the cultural center will serve as a space embodying the value of unity where the exhibition of works from diverse ethnicities and cross-cultural connections weave together into a singular experience that embraces a multiplicity of ideas and people. The public programs are designed to serve the community nearby by providing programs such as a library, food center, and a viewing tower. Therefore, the whole complex will once again become a converging point for people from different cultures and different ethnicities.
The westmost 7 bays of the shed are demolished to create a public plaza. The majority of the shed will be preserved to embrace the past and also lower construction costs. Public programs such as food court and library are designed to be long rectangular boxes extending out from under the shed to recall the scene of trains departing from the train terminal. The goal of such a gesture is to inherit the spirit of the site by retrieving the collective memories of what the site used to be.
There are two primary types of exhibition space in the art gallery. The major one will be the large exhibition boxes inserting onto the shed, which are to accommodate exhibitions of larger scales. Such insertion is gestural and iconic. Visitors will be able to see these boxes from a distance. They symbolize the liveliness created by the art gallery and rejuvenate the meaning of a landmark. The second type of exhibition space will be the void space under the shed surrounded by the large exhibition boxes. Movable small cabins will be installed on rails at where the original train tracks are located. These small exhibition cabins will be able to separate or combine together to accommodate various types of small exhibitions.
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