To some, the structure might look a little out of place—a pagoda-style building located off Alexander Road in the heart of Princeton Junction.
But for Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, the structure, which was dedicated in Nash Park on Oct. 28, is a perfect fit, representing the diversity of West Windsor Township and honoring one of the township’s most famous residents.
Hsueh led ribbon-cutting ceremony for the pavilion, which is called the Beautiful Pavilion. Hsueh says it was created to honor the “beautiful mind and the loving heart” of the Nobel Prize winner John Nash and his wife and mental health-care advocate Alicia Nash, both long-time West Windsor residents. In fact, the two—who were the focus of the Oscar-winning movie A Beautiful Mind—lived only a short distance down Alexander Road from Nash Park, near the intersection of Wallace Road.
The ceremony also recognized the various sponsors of the Beautiful Pavilion and introduced a donation campaign by the Friends of West Windsor Open Space to fund sculptures in the park of John and Alicia Nash.
The initial idea for creating a park near downtown West Windsor began in 1998, with the formation of the Mayor’s Open Space Task Force, designed to survey and plan for the use of open space for either active or environmental recreation.
The property that is now Nash Park—located behind the 7-11 and across from the Windsor Plaza Shopping Center—was originally donated to the township to be the location for a firehouse by the developer of the adjacent Gables senior citizen faclity. The property was ultimately deemed by town officials to be too small for a firehouse, so it became open space that was later considered to be a location for a park in the central of downtown Princeton Junction.
“That was the initial concept, a town green with gardens along the edges. We decided to make the space in the middle the size of a regulation croquet lawn, about a 100 feet by a 100 feet,” said township landscape architect Daniel Dobrimilsky.
The property became relevant again later when the township was working on sustainability plans and was looking for ways to improve social life. “One of the concepts we came up was a community garden, since it is a nice way to share traditions and understand each other better. So I came up with the idea of having an Asian-themed garden, because we had a growing Asian population, and most of the landscapes in the area really followed traditional European designs,” Dobrimilsky said.
In fact, two of Dobrimilsky’s interns, Christopher Perez and Yan Zhou, were crucial in developing the park plans. Perez was taking classes at Rutgers University while interning for Dobrimilsky in the summer of 2015, and was looking for things to work on, so Dobrimilsky suggested developing plans for the park.
“Together we worked on designs for the park, with a gazebo, a pond, different designs for Japanese garden, an Asian-Indian garden, etc.” Later, Zhou helped refine the plans by digitizing and modifying them during the winter of 2016 and the spring of 2017.
Currently, the park has various features that are inspired from Chinese, Japanese, Indian and other Asian cultures. It includes a Japanese garden with a zig-zag bridge, an Asian-Indian garden with a faux canal, a charbagh (quadrilateral garden), among other features. Many of these designs were part of Eagle Scout projects, and these scouts continue to develop new ideas for the park, such as growth-controlled bamboos near a modern moongate.
Discussing the park, Dobriminsky remarked that it was “one of the rare things where you start with a concept around 14 years ago and now it’s come to fruition.”
Meanwhile, Hsueh was searching for a name for this park, and realized that he wanted to dedicate it to John Nash. Nash had attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology and later joined the Ph.D. program at Princeton University after being proclaimed “a mathematical genius” in a recommendation letter.
He went on to teach at MIT and developed crucial mathematical and economic models such as the Nash equilibrium before he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Nash’s life was the basis for the 1998 book A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar and 2001 movie of the same name, both which served as the inspiration for the future name of the Beautiful Pavilion.
“I always admired Dr. Nash and his story. He was a genius,” Hsueh said.
Alongside Nash’s immense contributions to the fields of mathematics and economics, Hsueh believes this recognition is fitting because the park had an Asian theme and Nash had spent a considerable time in China giving lectures at the invitation of Chinese mathematics associations.
“I had been in communication with Dr. Nash on and off, and in 2014 I made a phone call to him and suggested the idea of naming the park after him to see if he had any objections,” said Hsueh.
In response, Nash laughed and inquired as to why something should be named after the living. However, after John and Alicia Nash’s death in a tragic car accident in 2015, Hsueh made up his mind and decided to name the park after them.
The park itself was dedicated in October 2016, and a plaque was placed reading, “This is a beautiful place for a beautiful mind and a loving heart.”
“Without his wife, Dr. Nash would never have gotten to where he was without his wife, and his wife would not have gotten to where she was without him. The helped each other, and they made the world much better,” Hsueh said.
Two years before, in 2014, Hsueh had showed the plans and location for an Asian-themed garden to a group of visitors from the Chinese National Academy of Painting.
“The artists said (the dedication) would not be a bad idea, because it would be something they could use to celebrate the life of Dr. Nash. Those days, they started talking about the donation of a Chinese pavilion to be built,” Hsueh said.
After Nash’s death in 2015, the process was expedited. “Frankly, I never expected they would give a gift to West Windsor, but then the started talking to me about the site and the dimensions for the pavilion, and I slowly found out that they took everything seriously. Before I know it, they already had an architect (Shanghai UA Design) with a unique design for the pavilion.”
Though mayor Hsueh officially revealed the signs and the plaque of the Beautiful Pavilion on Oct. 28, the pavilion had already been in use by residents. “I was told that there are people there for photography, yoga, and meditation already,” Hsueh said.
The Beautiful Pavilion is 32 feet fall, and 14.5 feet in diameter, with a pentagon-shaped base. Originally, Chinese architects were supposed to come to West Windsor to help build the Pavilion, however due to work visa denials, Dobrimilsky coordinated with the Chinese workers using local translators, such as “Linda” Yanbo Znoska from the Windsor Athletic Club, as well as WeChat to share problems, solutions and videos.
While the Pavilion is unique, it is not one-of-a-kind. In fact, two identical pavilions exist in China, one in Mount Emei —a common lecture site for Nash — and the other in a hometown of a major donor.
Donors for the Pavilion include Yang Xiaoyang, president of the Chinese National Academy of Painting; Zhou Yong, founder of the New Jersey Art Academy; and Luo Mingguang, CEO of the Mt. Emei Banyan Tree Group. Hsueh noted that, due to these donors, no taxpayer money was used for the structure.
These donors, along with the Friends of West Windsor Open Space organization helped fund the pavilion and the ceremony. However, the Friends of West Windsor Open Space continues to search for donations, this time in order to design sculptures of John Nash and Alicia Nash that would be situated in the Park.
According to a press release from the mayor’s office, the sculpture will be created by artist Gyuri Hollosy, of Grounds for Sculpture, who will be assisted by Joseph W. Acquah.
Anyone who wishes to make tax deductible donations can send checks payable to “FOWWOS” addressed to Friends of West Windsor Open Space, P.O. Box 73, West Windsor, New Jersey 08550. Donors are asked to add a note stating that the donations are for Nash Park.