RKLA’s embrace of history and strong belief in modern design finds potent expression in the redesign of the grounds of First Presbyterian Church at Fifth Avenue and 12th Street in Greenwich Village, Fifth Avenue’s only green space between Washington Square Park and Madison Square Park. RKLA was hired after the extensive restoration of the church’s mid-19th-century, Gothic Revival brownstone facade in the early 1990s damaged the gardens beyond repair. The project required review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the approval of the more than 400-strong congregation. The project’s successful completion has led to several other important commissions for RKLA in the design of religious landscapes.
Before the addition of any new design elements, two areas were improved through erasure and replacement: hedges next to the wrought iron perimeter fence gave way to low ground cover, and plantings positioned next to the church were pulled away from the building in favor of a widened bluestone walkway. These changes allowed the delicate detail of the fence and the impressive stature of the building to come to the fore.
The new gardens include bluestone pathways and terraces, two large lawns, a viewing garden, a cloister garden, and several small specimen flowering trees.