097_178 Steps

The land of Westminster Park, a former sheep pasture, was deeded over to the city of Syracuse in 1890. At that time, it did not have any of the markings of a formal park. From 1890 to 1910, the city had done little to improve the property, according to an article published in the Syracuse Journal on Oct. 22, 1910. The only developments were the creation of a sidewalk around the top of the Drumlin and a street (Westminster Avenue) to connect it with the city.

At the beginning of the 20th century, sometime around the 1930s, a staircase and connecting ramp sections were constructed to link the park, at the top, with Euclid Avenue, 178 steps below, through a steep hill carpeted with trees and native vegetation adapted to the extreme climate conditions of the area.

Today, this 4.784-acre urban green space that sits at the end of Westminster Avenue atop a 655-foot drumlin, offers spectacular views of Syracuse downtown and Onondaga Lake, and its stairs represent a common destination for neighborhood walkers, all manner of runners and college athletes, becoming a solid foundation for spontaneous community.

But over more than 100 years, continued use and harsh weather conditions have taken their toll on this infrastructure: the steps are crumbling, most of them missing chunks of concrete, and twisted historic bricks used in the ramps have become a hazard.

Prompted and urged by neighbors' demands, the city has raised funds for the restoration of this urban landmark and is planning to start the first phase of the work within the next two years.

Halfway between the need for restoration and the potential of adaptive reuse, our proposal aims to project this historic infrastructure into the future. By adding an extra layer in the form of several expanded landings, the project advocates for a multiplicity of future uses, reinforcing the stair's role as an outdoor social hub. The new railing, beyond its utilitarian purpose, becomes an activation tool, turning each section into a play-scape, a fitness park, a gathering space, an observatory deck, or into something else, unexpected. This new, colorful element encapsulates the very essence of the intervention, reducing the design response and its materialization to its minimum.

Year: 2022 / Location: Syracuse, NY, US / Program: Infrastructure Update / Status: Proposal (on-going) / Client: Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation & Youth Programs