McCarren Play Center

STATUS Designated Individual Landmark

431 Driggs Avenue

ARCHITECT: Aymar Embury II

DATE: 1934-36

STYLE: Art Moderne

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The McCarren Play Center is one of a group of eleven immense outdoor swimming pools opened in the summer of 1936 in a series of grand ceremonies presided over by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and Park Commissioner Robert Moses. All of the pools were constructed largely with funding provided by the Works Progress Administration. The complexes generally employed low-cost building materials, principally brick and cast concrete, and often utilized the streamlined and curvilinear forms of the popular 1930s Art Moderne style. Each had separate swimming, diving and wading pools, and a large bath house with locker room sections which doubled as gymnasiums in non-swimming months.

Contemporary sources indicated that the capacity of the McCarren Play Center bath house exceeds by a few hundred that of the other ten play centers, including Astoria. The immense scale of the McCarren Play Center is powerfully expressed in the monumental forms of the main entryway, a massive cubic block topped by a set-back gallery. Giant arches emphasized by decorative brick patterning span the openings giving onto the street and swimming pool, while the smooth light-colored walls in the upper portion of the open courtyard reflect the light entering from above and add to the dramatic character of this space.

*Excerpt from the Landmarks Preservation Commission designation report

STATUS Designated Individual Landmark

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