The Friday before Memorial Day new renderings appeared by HWKN for Fire Island Pine’s notorious Pavilion, the entertainment complex that burned down last November. In January, it was announced that Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) were signed on to do the master plan for the marina, of which the Pavilion serves as the social hub.
FIP Ventures had owned the property for just over two years before the fire. They had previously promised to build a temporary structure in time for summer, but as the season approached without a promised temporary Pavilion, rumors began to circulate that FIP was looking to sell. But FIP’s Matt Blesso said that permits delayed putting up the temporary structure and the group is fully committed to rebuilding. “We have a full contract with HWKN and they’re working on construction documents,” he said, adding that an engineer was also hired.
When asked why the group chose the young firm HWKN to design the new structure over DS+R, Blesso was frank. “We wouldn’t have been able to afford that,” he said. Renfro, a familiar face on the island, charged only for his staff’s time for the designing the master plan and offered his services for free. FIP owns 80 percent of the commercial property on the island, but the DS+R plan will encompass the entire marina.
Architect and historian Christopher Rawlins, whose upcoming book on architect Horace Gifford highlights several houses in the Pines, said that since the 1960s the marina was always well used, if utilitarian. The new complex would represent a definitive shift. “It would be the first instance of distinguished commercial architecture in a place that up to now has only had distinguished residential architecture,” said Rawlins. In addition to Gifford, Andrew Geller, Harry Bates, and Earl Combs all built in the Pines. Rawlins’s book captures not just Gifford’s sensibilities but that of the pre-AIDS Pines as well, a place where sheepskin-lined conversation pits and “makeout lofts” were common. And while the island today is hardly prudish, the new normal requires stroller parking.
“It was a mistake to think that the Pines was not in the eyes of the world,” said Renfro. “Why not take advantage of this moment; we’re in the cross hairs of history.” At the moment, zones of use are being defined, similar to those employed by DS+R and Field Operations at the High Line. The circulation and movement of the marina has an hourly rhythm in which marquee events like the July 4 drag queen invasion give way to quieter events like marriage ceremonies. “We’re not trying to Bilbao the island,” said Renfro. “What we’re seeking to do is tap into the history and ritual that already existed and bring in architecture that is commensurate with the Pines as a place that’s inventive, kooky, and fun loving.”
A typical Pines home is more haute summer camp than Hamptons show palace. The challenge for HWKN was to keep the tone casual while also providing enough panache for wedding ceremonies. HWKN decided to stick with the cedar cladding, a material used throughout the island. The pressure-treated pine boardwalk would continue as flooring through much of the building, “so it feels like it’s a part of the infrastructure,” explained HWKN’s Matthias Hollwich. The facade is open and faceted to allow the largest frontage to drop toward the dock to greet incoming ferries. A series of steps will lead up through the opening to amenities on the first floor. A generous ceiling height of 14 feet will be reserved for second-floor terraces, where the 28-foot-high building will offer its best views. Openings will make the building visually permeable from most angles. “We used every kind of architectural tool we have to break down boundaries,” Hollwich said.