News
06.21.2006
Public Amusements
Since New York City has less green space per capita than any other major American city, it is no wonder that we want every inch of it to do double and even triple duty. Frederick Law Olmsted himself understood that Central Park visitors would use the reservoir for boating and skating, and not just the appreciation of nature. Our appetite for activity-oriented open spaces remains as strong as ever, and soon, the New York area will have even more to offer. From revivals of 19th-century building types like the camera obscura and the carousel to modern American entertainments such as waterparks and malls, a slew of new projects will provide a variety of outdoor amusements this summer and many to come.


Center for Global Conservation

673 Bronx Zoo
FXFowle Architects

From the Bronx Zoo to the New york Aquarium, the Wildlife Conservation Society is embarking on major expansion projects.


Courtesy Wildlife Conservation Society

While the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is known as a major nonprofit dedicated to saving wildlife all over the worldd its preservation efforts are now taking place in 53 countriessthe organization actually originated with the New York City zoo system. Initially called the New York Zoological Society, the WCS started with the creation of the Bronx Zoo, in 1895. Currently, the WCS oversees zoos on city-owned land in Central Park, Prospect Park, Queens, and the Bronx, as well as the aquarium at Coney Island.

The WCS is embarking on an expansion and renovation effort at its facilities throughout the boroughs. FXFowle Architects is in the process of renovating the Lion House, a 1903 building by Heins and La Farge that has been empty since the 1970s. Since receiving the commission in 2001, FXFowle has also been hired to design the Center for Global Conservation (CGC), a new stand-alone building not too far from the Lion House.

This year, the WCS also announced that it selected Slade Architecture to design a building that will house the shark tank at the New York Aquarium, near Coney Island, and has issued an RFQ for a redesign of the aquarium's perimeter, including a section that faces the boardwalk and the ocean.

All of these projects were done in consultation or collaboration with a range of city entities, including the Mayor's Office, the Department of City Planning, and the Department of Design and Construction; the latter recommended architects from its General Excellence Program, including Slade.

The WCS projects reflect the nonprofit's values about environmental conservation and preservation. When the Lion House buildinggwhich is part of an original Beaux Arts complexxis completed in the late spring of next year, it will be the first landmarked building in New York City to achieve a LEED rating. In retrofitting the structure, the architects had to reevaluate its HVAC systems, skylights, and other energy-related features to bring the building to present-day efficiency standards. The approach for the CGC building, which began shortly after the Lion House, was similar.

I like to think of these two projects together,, said Sylvia Smith, partner of FXFowle. For Lion House, we worked from the inside out. The exterior landscape was shaped by the building form itself. For the CGC, we worked from the outside in. We really took our design cues for the interiors from the elements of the landscape..

The mantra is always respect the nature we're in,, said Susan Chin, of the Exhibition and Graphic Arts Department of the WCS, which oversees these building projects.

While the design for the New York Aquarium's new shark tank will not be presented until July, the building's approach will have a similar respect for the environment and public education. The shark building will be architecture with a capital A,, said Chin, noting that the building will be much more of a design statement than the WCS buildings completed to date. You'll definitely notice it..

The uniqueness of the WCS's building campaign is intimately tied to its mission. The WCS understands that sustainable buildings are holistic systems,, said Smith. And it realizes that its buildings and their stories can be part of its message..
ANDREW YANG

 



The Pier at Ceasar's
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Elkus/Manfredi Architects with Rockwell Group

The Pier at Ceasar's updates a beloved 19thhcentury type, now that shopping had replaced vaudeville as the entertainment of choice.


Courtesy Elkus/Manfredi Architects and Gordon group Holdings

Though only three remain today, Atlantic City's piers used to be as central to the city's identity as its beloved boardwalk, the Miss America Pageant, and Monopoly property. They were built in the late 19th-century as sideshow-lined entertainment venues and featured everything from vaudeville acts and dance halls to a famous series of diving horses. David Manfredi, principal of Elkus/ Manfredi Architects, remembers visiting Steel Pier as a small boy and being mesmerized by the act, which took its last plunge in 1978. He recalled, With a great deal of fanfare, the horse walked off the platform and leapt into the pool,, about 40 feet below.

Though his firm was undoubtedly chosen to design the Pier at Caesar's for experience more relevant than his early trips to the boardwalk, Manfredi's affection for the old Atlantic City made him a particularly good choice to create a complex sited on the old Million Dollar Pier. When opened at the end of the summer, the three-level structure will combine a contemporary high-end mall with some of the old entertainments of its original incarnation. The project represents the transformation of this building type over its 100-odd year existenceein short, the switch from horses to Hermms.

As Atlantic City declined, many of the piers were torn down, and others repurposed. Million Dollar Pier became a traditional shopping mall, despite its awkward 900-foot-by-200-foot footprint. Perhaps to block out the decaying city outside, the mall was entirely enclosed; shoppers had no sense that they were literally hundreds of feet out into the Atlantic. When you were inside it, you could have been in a mall anywhere in the country,, said Manfredi. When we saw it, we thought, What a missed opportunity!''

The existing pier platform was left intact, but the building on top has been entirely rebuilt. According to Manfredi, the architects were careful to provide vantage points from which to see the ocean and the beach. We wanted it to be specific to Atlantic Cityyyou'll know you are there, and you'll know you are on the water,, he said. And if nature in its raw state is not enough, at the end of the pier there balconies from which shoppers can watch a water, light, and fire show that will run every hour.

The spectacle continues outside: The pier is largely clad in electronic billboards. Another throwback, explained Manfredi: The old piers were just covered in graphics and signage, which was aimed at the people strolling down the boardwalk. That's one more thing we are bringing back.. AG
Anne Guiney



Recreational facilities
Randall's Island
Randall's Island Sports Foundation

From bird-watching to water-sliding, New York's Randall's Island will offer a host of new outdoor activities.


Aquatic development group/courtesy randall's island sprots foundation

When Robert Moses first envisioned a Randall's Island filled with baseball diamonds and football fields, few believed that what was essentially a large garbage dump could become New York's center of recreation and one its largest public parks. While Moses successfully implemented his plans, attendance was dismal and his dream soon deteriorated. Over 70 years later, the idea is being revived with an assortment of new facilities, including the recently opened Icahn Stadium, extensive plans for landscape restoration, and a soon-to-be-built waterpark.

In replacing the deteriorating Downing Stadium in April of 2005, the $42 million Icahn Stadium marked the first major step toward the island's revival as a recreation destination. Hillier Architecture's stadium design is simple and innovative, with light towers doubling as tension cable-bearing roof supports. The project, which includes track and field facilities, was organized by the Randall's Island Sports Foundation (RISF), a development group founded in 1992 to oversee new construction on the island.

Each summer since 2003, Randall's Island has hosted the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil in a series of temporary tents. In order to accommodate crowds and create a more inviting atmosphere, the RISF has overseen renovations and reconstruction of much of the area's infrastructure, including boardwalks and trails throughout the island, and a new waterfront pathway designed by Roesch Architects. The pathway will trace the full 5-mile circumference of the island. Unlike Icahn Stadium and many other RISF programs, the $4 million pathway will be funded exclusively by the city and state.

Another state-funded initiative will restore a 5-acre section of salt marsh and freshwater wetlands at the Little Hell Gate Inlet along the island's west coast. Indigenous plants and wildlife, including red-winged blackbirds and green herons, will be reintroduced to the landscape. The area will also serve the Randall's Island Kids Nature Program, which is organized by the RISF to provide activities, classes, and events for children.

The biggest and flashiest new addition to Randall's Island, however, is a 26-acre new waterpark (shown at the lower right corner of the plan, at left) that should be completed by summer of 2008. Located on the northwestern tip of the island, the park will be comprised of two partssone a year-round indoor facility, the other a summer-only outdoor portionnand will cost $168 million, entirely funded through private sources. The waterpark will be designed, built, and operated by the central New Yorkkbased Aquatic Development Group, and its grand scale should ensure Randall's Island's role as the recreational hotspot for both the city and the region.
JAFFER KOLB



Mitchell Park
Village of Greenport, New York
SHoP Architects/Sharples Holden Pasquarelli

seong kwon courtesy shop

seong kwon courtesy SHoP

seong kwon courtesy SHoP

Like many old whaling towns along Long Island's Peconic Bay, the village of Greenport is more dependent on summer tourism today than its historic industries of fishing and boatbuilding. In the late 1970s, a fire along the waterfront burned a 5-acre section of town that had included a car dealership, a gas station, various marine boat and engine repair facilities, and an oyster company. The remaining vacant land was left seriously polluted: Nine underground storage tanks remained on the site, which was also contaminated by petroleum and arsenic.

Many Greenporters argued that the waterfront site should be redeveloped into tax-generating shops, but Mayor David Kapell argued that even the existing stores in the village could not stay open in the winter because of a lack of customers. It would be better to create a public facility to bring people to Greenport who would then patronize existing stores. In 1996 Greenport held a design competition to transform the waterfront site into a series of public amenities that would be called Mitchell Park. The jury selected James Corner as the winner, but when the Philadelphia-based landscape architect could not reach an agreement with the town, the jury gave the commission to the third-place runner-up SHoP Architects, bypassing the second-place scheme, which they considered unbuildable.

The $12 million Mitchell Park was completed late last summer, and has already made its impact on the local merchants who cater to the town's visitors. The park creates a link between a bus and railroad station, the Shelter Island ferry terminal, and the town's main drag and new public marina. A hardwood boardwalk and bluestone-and-gravel path crosses along the waterfront and connects a landscaped amphitheater, open-air ice-skating rink (which becomes a mist plazaa in the summer), and various follies. These include a roundhouse for the town's historic carousel, shade arbors, a small mechanical building, a camera obscura, and a harbormaster's building.

The park and its architecture are an anomaly in Greenport, where nearly every new structure is built in some ersatz historical style. SHoP's convincing mix of local vernacular industrial architecture and a modernist sensibility has given the village a brilliant new center.
William Menking



Sebago Canoe Club
Canarsie, Brooklyn
Leroy Street Studio

courtesy leroy street studio

This summer, the Sebago Canoe Club will be launching boats from a new dock, marking the first stage in a major upgrade to the 73-year-old organization's Canarsie facility. The club represents an eclectic group of people in Brooklyn,, according to architect Shawn Watts of Leroy Street Studio, which agreed to upgrade the facility on a pro-bono basis. Right now, competitive paddlers and urban adventurers use a Parks Departmenttowned facility, and store roughly 300 kayaks and canoes in a collection of brightly- painted used shipping containers. Watts, who got to know a Sebago member through his wife's attendance at an arts class, has also applied for and received grants from the state and the J. M. Kaplan Fund to begin improving the facility.

Watts' design includes three new structures that link up with the existing shipping containers, which will still be used for storage. Each one is a simple steel frame clad in clear polycarbonate panels that can be opened as weather permits. One of the structures will be is an activity space (pictured above) in which the club plans to offer classes such as boatbuilding. The other two house bathrooms and meeting rooms.

Watts explained that the new structures will act as a porch in summer and light-heated underpass in winter.. The facility will also stand in egalitarian counterpoint to the many private marinas and yacht clubs that line Paedergat Basin. With its mix of materials and textures, Watts said, the updated Sebago still feels like Brooklyn..
Alec Appelbaum



Union Square Park Pavilion and Comfort Station
Manhattan
Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and ARO

courtesy ARO

With protests to watch, skateboarders to dodge, and produce to ogle, it is little wonder that the stone pavilion at Union Square's northern edge goes unnoticed by most of the people who walk by it. The 1932 bandstand's two wings currently flank the summertime restaurant Luna Park, and it also houses a public restroom which is used by the staunch of heart, weak of bladder, and very few others. Recently, however, it has fallen into disrepair. In 2003, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation hired Michael van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), the Boston-based landscape architects, to develop a plan for the northern end of the park. MVVA soon brought local architects Architecture Research Office (ARO) to restore and expand the pavilion.

According to ARO principal Stephen Cassell, the firm is expanding the basement level to make offices for parks employees. The architects will relocate the restaurant's kitchens, currently in a series of shacks leaned up against the pavilion, below ground. The most visible part of the scheme is a new comfort station. The 600-square-foot glass and metal mesh structure (above, at left) will have a bathroom for the playground and another opening onto the plaza. Though the design was approved by the Fine Arts Commission in May, it hasn't been a speedy process, and a start date for construction has not been assigned. It is a little project, and fun,, said Cassell, But it has also been a very process-heavy job. There is so little park space in the city, and so many competing interests..
Anne Guiney



floating pool
Beacon, New York
Meta Brunzema Architect

courtesy Meta Brunzema Architect

While most New yorkers would raise an eyebrow at the idea of swimming in the waters of the Hudson next to Manhattan, In 2005, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEP), along with private supporters like musician Pete Seeger, proposed to build a flow throughh pool set at the river's edge in Beacon, New York, in which water would pass freely through the mesh structure. The DEP hired the Manhattan-based architect Meta Brunzema to develop a design; construction began on June 2.

Since the ability for water flow is central to the pool's functioning, the materials that Brunzema chose were crucial. She specified woven nylon belts for the pool's flooring and a thin structural mesh called Dyneema for its siding. The mesh's gaps are small enough keep all hands and feet safely inside, but large enough to allow small fish to swim through. Sunbathers and swimmers can relax on a ring of floating fiberglass seats around its perimeter, and a splinter-free dock connects the shore to the seating.

The structure will be anchored to the riverbed with cables (section, above), and flotation tubes will be embedded within the fiberglass seating to keep the pool and sunbathers afloat. With an entry fee of less than a dollar and seating for only 20 people, a line should build up, but that's okay: Brunzema hopes that eventually these pools will be scattered in rivers all throughout the state..
Stephen Martin



Carousel
Battery Park City
Weisz + Yoes Architecture

courtesy weisz + yoes architecture

Perhaps the most exciting of a series of projects launched by the Battery Park Conservancy is an ocean-themed carousel (above) designed by Weisz + Yoes Architects. When it is completed at the end of 2007, it will join the Garden of Remembrance (dedicated to the victims of September 11) and the Battery Labyrinth. Later years will see the addition of a newly landscaped Town Green and Lawn and a refurbished Castle Clinton.

The details of the design are still being refined, but as it stands, its framework will be made of stainless steel, and the roof and walls of either plaster or fiberglass. According to principal Claire Weisz, the spiral roof is intended to evoke the dramatic quality of a cathedral while also making it more visible to passersby.

What makes the carousel distinct from its type is that it is employs two projection technologies, one that dates to the 1600s, and a second that is decidedly more contemporary. At the carousel's hub, there is a magic lantern, or a dimmable glass cylinder that moves up and down and spins, much like a child's top. It will be lit up from the inside and project shadows of fish on the roof.

But in Weisz's words, this analogg experience of spinning shadows will be overlaid with another digitall experience of projectors showing images of the city at night. The whole series of images,, said Weisz, is supposed to compose a narrative of travel from the city to underwater..
David Giles