Its jogging trails, park benches and skating rinks have served as backdrops for such iconic films as Ghostbusters, Annie Hall, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and countless Sex in the City episodes. But New York’s Central Park could have looked very different, if John J. Rink had gotten his way.
Back in 1858, when the Central Park Commission announced a competition to design a park for a city populace that had quadrupled in the three decades previous, no fewer than 35 blueprints were submitted. The winning design, sketched out by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, was the one we know today: 778 acres of manicured lawns, ponds and lakes, elm trees, bridges, plazas and ducks. But what about all the other entries?
To date, this has been a question not too many have cared to ask. But for those who like to speculate on how things could have been, there is one design that has survived the past 160 years. Its creator was John J. Rink, and as these renderings (care of insurance company Budget Direct, for some reason) show, his vision was quite different to the one we ended up with. A “folk-art fantasy of Versailles” was how he put it, with manicured, crop circle-like hedges and reflective pools. Which is not to say that Rink’s vision was bad, only that Bruce Willis wouldn’t have looked nearly so badass hooning his taxi through it.
You can take a glimpse at Rink’s original submission over at the New-York Historical Society.