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Waste to wonder: waterfront park in New York

Along the East River, sitting by the westernmost tip of one of New York’s five boroughs, an abandoned industrial landscape witnesses a marvellous transformation.

by Zohra Khan May 24, 2019

Phase II of the Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, spanning 5.5 acres, marks the completion of a larger masterplan which first welcomed the public in 2013. The result is 11 acres of continuous multi-layered waterfront park. The project is designed in collaboration between SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI, while ARUP has been the prime consultant and infrastructure designer.

The site savors spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and is located next to the Hunter’s Point neighbourhood - Long Island City’s largest affordable housing development since the 1970s. Making the most of its contextual assets, the project presents a new model for urban ecology and a prototype for innovative sustainable design. It integrates within its fabric, infrastructure, landscape, architecture and art that come together as a unique urban insert in an otherwise dilapidated industrial land.

A view of the Hunter’s Point South neighbourhood Image Credit: ©Tatham/SWA, Courtesy SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI

“Reforming disused areas of our densely populated city is an incredibly important part of our social responsibility as designers in New York, and the new Hunter’s Point development provided the perfect opportunity to allow people to explore and enjoy the city’s waterfront,” comments Tom Kennedy, principal at ARUP.

One of the reasons the project stands out is for its ability of being waterfront resilient. The design brings into account a ‘soft’ approach to protecting the water’s edge from flooding. An acre of newly established wetland has been developed, which prevents shoreline bank erosion, enhances water quality and nourishes the aquatic ecosystem.

“It’s a new kind of park,” says Tom Balsley, lead landscape architect at SWA BALSLEY, referencing the pre-empted infrastructure and community offerings presented here.

  • 1.5 acres of newly established wetlands protect the water’s edge from flooding Image Credit: ©Vecerka/Esto, Courtesy of SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi
  • The sculptural overlook reinforces the site’s industrial past Image Credit: ©Tatham/SWA, Courtesy of SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi

The site, along the river bank, is wrapped by a continuous meandering causeway that protects the wetlands. This path invites people to the waterfront; sporadic break-out lounges dotting the route, a striking overlook with a wooden board-walk and seating spaces. Softly reflecting in the wetlands below, this 30 feet high cantilevered platform is supported by an impressive steel-clad framework that reminisces the site’s industrial past while at the same time remains distinctly urbane.

Branching off the causeway, a pedestrian bridge connects the visitors to a circular grassland. The established industrial peninsula of the larger design reconfigures itself into a dreamlike getaway – where one is as if detached from the city and at the same time, fairly connected. The space features a land art installation called Luminescence by New York-based artist, Nobuhu Nagasawa. It consists of seven large sculptures embedded in the land that emulate the surface of the moon in each of its seven phases. The work uses integrated phosphorescent particles that absorb sunlight during the day and emits a soft glow as dusk approaches.

Luminescence by Nobuhu Nagasawa Image Credit: ©Lloyd/SWA, Courtesy of SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi

Phase II of the Hunter’s Point South presents itself as a porous meeting point for people to relax, detox and retreat in the embrace of nature. The project is an intelligent intervention where design, respectful of the site’s past, has opened a gateway to new possibilities of creating contemporary public spaces within developing urban precincts.

Project Details

Name of the project: Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, Phase II
Location: Long Island City, New York
Year of completion: June 2018
Designers: SWA/BALSLEY and WEISS/MANFREDI
Prime consultant and infrastructure designer: ARUP

  • Conceptual Sketch Image Credit: Courtesy of SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi
  • Exercise and picnic terraces Image Credit: ©Tatham/SWA, Courtesy of SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi
  • Intimate break-out lounges off the continuous causeway Image Credit: ©Tatham/SWA, Courtesy of SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi
  • Friendly pedestrian tracks Image Credit: ©Vecerka/Esto, Courtesy of SWA/Balsley and Weiss/Manfredi

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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