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09.03.2008
Beacon Point
A new artwork rethinks water access on a post-industrial patch of the Hudson.

Courtesy George Trakas
 
 

Beacon Point
Designer: George Trakas
Beacon, New York

The Hudson River waterfront of Beacon, New York, ranks among the best local attractions of this industrial city still in transition. Unlike Dia:Beacon or the historic Alps chocolate factory, the riverfront surely is the best kept. On a recent Friday evening, a burning sunset multiplied in the rippling waters of low tide and Clearwater, Pete Seeger’s 106-foot-tall replica sloop, was enveloped deep in dusk’s silhouette as it slowly navigated a mooring. And yet only a lone Metro-North commuter, neglected by whomever was supposed to meet him at the train station, a small family of fishermen, and Beacon’s shirtless crazy guy were there to enjoy the scene.

Efforts are underway to change that. A 20-foot prototype of the River Pool at Beacon, a protected ring of colorful wedges designed by Meta Brunzema, has been bobbing in the Hudson since early summer. Building One of the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries, located to the south on Denning’s Point, is now open, and on the verge of a LEED Gold or Platinum rating. And between the two sits the 23-acre Long Dock Peninsula, where the art-installation-cum-public park Beacon Point was dedicated last October.

Adapted from an abandoned railroad marine landing by Quebec-born, New York–based artist George Trakas, Beacon Point hugs the north side and western tip of the peninsula. Trakas ran a diagonal incision through this apostrophe-shaped boardwalk to create a slightly sloping channel through which lapping tidal waters create an extra layer of sound. The channel flares at either end, where, instead of orthogonal walls, the volume assumes a series of curvilinear steps. The datum comprises traditional planks—studded with a whimsically large number of concrete footings—and the channel walls and bottom are steel, allowing swimmers and feet danglers instant, splinter-free access to the Hudson.

Dia Art Foundation and Scenic Hudson first engaged Trakas to evaluate water-access opportunities in 1999, as the massive renovation of a former Nabisco box factory into Dia:Beacon was getting underway. The community-minded arts non-profit Minetta Brook oversaw Trakas’ work.

Just as he integrated on-site construction waste into the 1983 waterfront installation Berth Haven in Seattle, Trakas recycled materials as much as site to realize Beacon Point. An obligatory billboard pops up through the boardwalk, for example, proclaiming “Danger/Do Not Anchor or Dredge/Gas Pipeline Crossing.” Besides underscoring Beacon’s working-waterfront past, the artwork also will help launch its postindustrial future: Beginning next Spring, Scenic Hudson and its development partner Foss Group Beacon will break ground on Long Dock Beacon, which features an even larger public park as well as a sustainable hotel and conference center designed by Vancouver’s Patkau Architects.

David Sokol

David Sokol is a writer living in Beacon and a regular contributor to AN.