Last night landscape architects from OLIN debuted their designs for Manhattan’s Pier 26. The plans brim with programming but are intended, for the most part, to provide space for quiet relaxation.

At a presentation last night to Manhattan Community Board 1 (CB 1), the Philadelphia-based firm and its client, the Hudson River Park Trust, debuted their conceptual pier plans before an eager audience. Extending almost 800 feet from shore, renderings depict a Pier 26 shaped by an angular, elevated walkway that draws visitors above the waterline to take in views up and down the shore, sit quietly among native scrub, or galavant on an abstracted play-forest—a special habitat for New York children.

Based on meetings last year with Tribeca and lower Manhattan neighbors, OLIN teased out a need for open recreational space and native habitat but combined those wants with an even stronger desire for contemplative, relaxing outdoor spaces, into what the firm hopes will be an “iconic destination,” explained partner Lucinda Sanders. “We really tried to think of a place for you, not for tourists.” The pier, which sits south of Canal Street between Hubert and North Moore streets, juts almost 800 feet into the Hudson, a canvas of possibility on a blank concrete slab.

(Courtesy Olin Studio)

(Courtesy Olin Studio)

The plans hope to fill gaps in the offerings on other west side piers. In addition to standard-issue ballfields around the pier’s midsection, OLIN proposed a netscape—a pliable mesh surface that sags and bounces as people get on but brings everyone as close as possible—or legally feasible—to the water’s edge. Farther out, stadium-style seating could double as outdoor classrooms, while closer to shore, a large lawn could hold movie nights for 750-plus people. Migrating birds would have an exclusive, biped-free resting spot at the pier’s tip, while recreational boats could dock alongside the structure.

 “There’s a whole hell of a lot of programming—but it’s fantastic,” said CB 1 member Bruce Ehrmann, echoing the room’s appreciative oohs and aaahs.

Wind turbines could power the pier’s estuarium (to be designed by New York’s Rafael Viñoly Architects) or other functions, but there was unexpectedly strong pushback from the assembled on the turbine’s potential noise and bird-killing capabilities. The board also worried about the cellphone-gobbling potential of the mesh nets. Sanders noted the firm is looking at ways to mitigate the loss of phones and keys, perhaps with a sub-net.

All told, the Trust estimates Pier 26 will cost $30.7 million. All of the funds are secured. There’s no plan for the foreseeable to transfer air rights to facilitate nearby development, a la Pier 40, so the area’s spaciousness will be preserved.

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