In the heart of Brooklyn's Prospect Park, a regulation-size hockey rink sits below an imposing canopy, its deep blue underside emblazoned with the curly lines blades form along the surface of the ice, while a smaller elliptical rink is open to the elements. Opened last month, the Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Center at Lakeside is a new 75,000-square-foot, year-round recreational facility by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects that replaces the 1961 Wollman Rink, which had far exceeded the typical lifespan of such outdoor amenities.
It also restores the pastoral beauty of the 26-acre site, whose original design by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux had been marred by the earlier construction and addition of surface parking. “The project combines contemporary design, historic preservation, and environmental stewardship,” says Christian Zimmerman, Prospect Park’s lead landscape architect for over two decades.
Barely visible from a distance, granite walls tucked into the rolling landscape create pedestrian pathways and terraces accessible to the public, and form the facades of the one-story structures that house the skate rental area, lockers, café, gift shop, and mechanical spaces that support the rinks—which convert into a roller skating arena and water feature in the warmer months. According to Tsien, “We wanted to create a place, not just a building.”