Achim Menges

This robotically-woven canopy will rise atop Pier 17 in Manhattan

Architecture East
This robotically-woven canopy will rise atop Pier 17 in Manhattan. (Courtesy Achim Menges)
This robotically-woven canopy will rise atop Pier 17 in Manhattan. (Courtesy Achim Menges)

German architect Achim Menges has designed a canopy for the SHoP Architects–designed Pier 17 at the Seaport District in Manhattan. With a form derived from beetle wings, the canopy will reside on the building’s rooftop, replacing a glass pergola that had been nixed by the Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC).

SHoP’s initial renderings depicted a lawned roof that people would leisurely enjoy. However, these newer renderings suggest a more intense usage of the space is possible, with large crowds of people gathered under the canopy for casual relaxation and large concerts alike. Indeed, the space has been designed to host up to 4,000 for outdoor movie screenings, tennis matches, art installations, and more. (As we also reported in 2015, when the LPC made the decision to veto the pergola, locals were wary of big crowds flocking to the area for such events.)

(Courtesy Achim Menges)

Menges, who is a professor at Stuttgart University, has drawn inspiration from beetles in the past. The Elytra Filament Pavilion for London’s Victoria & Albert Museum derived its shape from “the fibrous structures of the forewing shells of flying beetles known as elytra,” and at Pier 17, his work is based around the wing casing of the potato beetle.

“It had to be lightweight because it sits on top of a building,” Menges told the New York Times. “But it also had to be strong to stand up to gale force winds.”



Pier 17 under construction in New York City. (Ty Cole)

Like in London, the canopy will be robotically woven. The complex lightweight structure will be composed of glass and carbon fibers. Embedded within will be lights that illuminate the structure, making it clearly visible from the water’s edge, and particularly the Brooklyn Bridge—a landmark that Menges also used to inform his design. In 2015, neighbors also voiced concerns that the pergola would block views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

According to SHoP, the 250,000-square-foot, $200 million Pier 17 is to be finished in 2018. (However, SHoP is not directly involved with the design of Menges’s canopy.)

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