Posts tagged with "Governors Island":

City of Dreams Pavilion brings artifacts of the agro-industrial age to New York City

Architecture studio Austin+Mergold has teamed up with artist Maria Park and students from Cornell University to produce Oculi, this year's City of Dreams Pavilion on Governors Island in New York City. The design was the winner of the annual City of Dreams competition aimed at promoting sustainability in architecture and design. It's on view now through October 31. The installation features a field of elevated oculi made from 40-year-old metal grain bins procured from a farm in Delphos, Ohio. The oculi frame unobstructed views of the sky while tracking the path of the sun with a range of shadow patterns. The interior walls of the bins are painted in shades of blue that correspond to the changing colors of the sky throughout the day. “Artifacts of the American agro-industrial age, these bins have been repurposed in ways not unlike how medieval inhabitants of Rome reoccupied the remains of the Ancient Empire,” explained the studio in a statement. They compare the grain bin with “spolia,” a term for ancient stone that has been repurposed in new construction. The City of Dreams Pavilion is now a gathering place for visitors to enjoy performances and lectures. Following the de-installation, the bins will be reused as materials for an experimental housing cluster in Central New York. The competition was organized by FIGMENT, the Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY), and the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY). For Oculi, the architects and artist collaborated with consulting engineers Chris Earls and Scott Hughes.

Winner of 2018 City of Dreams Pavilion Competition announced

The City of Dreams 2018 winning installation, Oculi, was created by New York–Pennsylvania firm Austin+Mergold in collaboration with Maria Park (Cornell) and consulting engineers Chris Earls (Cornell) and Scott Hughes (Silman). Oculi will be comprised of old metal silos, similar to those in upstate New York, that will frame sky views and track the sun’s path. The silos’ interiors will be painted to match the changing sky throughout the day, so that visitors may find themselves in a space mirroring the sky above.

The pavilion will be assembled on Governors Island for the summer season, pending fundraising and approvals. After, it will be installed as an “experimental housing cluster” in central New York.

The City of Dreams Competition, now in its seventh year, is hosted by FIGMENT, the Emerging New York Architects Committee, the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, and the Structural Engineers Association of New York. The competition tasks architects with creating a thoughtful installation that promotes sustainability and addresses economic and natural resources. The jury included David Benjamin, founder and principal, The Living; Anna Fixsen, senior web editor, Metropolis Magazine; Benjamin Gilmartin, partner at Diller Scofidio + Renfro; Ann Ha, partner at BEHIN HA DESIGN STUDIO; Jorge Otero‐Pailos, director and professor of historic preservation at Columbia University GSAPP; and Risa Puno, artist.

Austin + Mergold, founded by Jason Austin and Aleksandr Mergold, engages in what they call “slow architecture,” which is reminiscent of the slow food and slow design movements. According to their website, “We see our work process as slow architecture. Believing that it is preferable to rethink and repurpose existing resources than to tap new ones, we infiltrate existing systems that are responsible for built form, rather than reinvent the wheel each time. We explore local vernacular conditions to discover how an efficient (and economical) reconfiguration of available materials, forms and methods, informed by the latest advances in technology, can result in an improved quality of life for communities and individuals. For us, this is sustainable design—both vis-à-vis the environment and our own business—and it is particularly well-suited to the twinned economic and ecological crises that we face today.”

 

They will be mentored by Josh Draper, founder and principal at PrePost and lecturer at CASE, The Center for Architecture Science & Ecology, an architectural research center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for the duration of the design and installation.

New aluminum casting technique creates Governors Island pavilion

Update 7/17/17: This article has been updated to more clearly depict the pavilion's construction and disassembly. The seventh annual City of Dreams Pavilion, dubbed Cast & Place and designed by Team Aesop, is now open to the public on New York City’s Governors Island. The interdisciplinary team, made up of architect Josh Draper of New York–based PrePost, Lisa Ramsburg and Powell Draper of engineering consulting firm Schlaich Bergermann Partner, Edward M. Segal of Hofstra University, Max Dowd of the Cooper Union, Max Dowd of Grimshaw Architects and sculptors Scot W. Thompson and Bruce Lindsay, won the competition back in March with their design that reimagines metal waste as a resource for the future of the city. The competition is run by FIGMENT, the Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY), and the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY). The brief asks designers to rethink the environmental impact of their designs and to promote sustainable design strategies in light of a future that faces the depletion of natural resources. Cast & Place’s winning design proposed using material entirely made from waste: five tons of excavated clay for the structure’s framework and 300,000 recycled aluminum cans (that would be melted and re-cast) for the structured itself. The team had previously built a small-scale prototype of the panel to test out potential challenges, as the method of fabricating crack-cast aluminum had never been done before, according to Josh Draper. The prototype proved useful, highlighting difficulties that would have been hard to anticipate otherwise. Despite the team’s expectation that they were going to use solely aluminum cans, the melted mix of food trays, foil, and cans produced an inconsistent alloy. Instead, for their final structure, standard aluminum ingots were used to ensure consistent quality and timeliness. “There were metallurgical and production issues that we couldn’t take on with our schedule and budget,” Draper said. However, he added that “this project prototyped a new method that has potential.” The original proposal also featured two side-by-side aluminum frame structures, however, only one was installed on Governors Island (which worked out well, as the site was smaller than anticipated). The fabrication of the pavilion required a new mold technique: wet clay was laid out to dry and crack in plywood frames, where it was then transferred to a steel mold and secured with sheetrock and cement. Steel straps bound the mold assembly to control escaping steam. Once the aluminum cooled and solidified, it formed one cohesive panel. When the pavilion is disassembled, it will be recycled and turned into benches and trellises for the people who backed the project on Kickstarter. “It’s the beginning of a long conversation and collaboration with the public on waste, structure, and light,” Draper said. “We wanted to create a space for contemplation, to provoke questions about what material and waste can be, to invite people to touch and wonder.” The City of Dreams Pavilion is located on the North Side of Governors Island (across from Castle Williams) and is running until October 17.

OFFICE III designs new welcome center for Governors Island

Governors Island is now open for the season, and soon, visitors to the park will be greeted by a brand-new building. The Friends of Governors Island asked an emerging firm to design a Welcome Center—a first for the island—to greet visitors disembarking from the Manhattan ferry. The structure, it said, had to be temporary, made of prefabricated materials, and if need be, the whole had to be designed to be re-erected on a different site. The timeline? Six weeks from concept to completion. "We were designing for that flexibility," said Stephanie Lin, co-founding principal of OFFICE III, a bicoastal architectural collective founded last year by three friends from the Harvard GSD. For this project, Lin, along with principals Ryan Golenberg and Sean Canty, looked to the island's defensive architecture for inspiration. The group was especially taken by the thick-walled Castle Williams, a red sandstone fortification—complete with gun casements—that looms over New York Harbor. Instead of defending itself from intruders, though, OFFICE III's Welcome Center—in keeping with its name—embraces the crowds. "It's almost literally a device for framing and filtering," Lin said. "While the castle keeps people out, the Center is a foil that brings people in." The structure's frank but expressive openness is meant to dialogue with the rolling hills and serpentine paths West 8 designed for Governors Island last year. An information kiosk and a retail cube form the core of the structure, while wood and polycarbonate windows segment a lounge area that provides refuge from the summer sun. With built-in seating, an 800-square-foot wooden deck that unfurls beneath the butterfly roof, and less than a foot of material separating the Welcome Center floor from the lawn below, Lin hopes the kiosk can host events that will flow naturally outside. For all its transparency, the structure isn't light on durability. Last year, more than half a million people visited Governors Island, with an average of 20,000 visitors each weekend. The interior's marine-grade plywood, patterned in radiant diagonals, can withstand wear from tens of thousands of feet, while the exterior panels are finished with resilient cedar decking. The larger panels were fabricated on-site, and the pieces will be reused in upcoming seasons. Formally, a series of two-by-12-inch wood louvers resist vertical loads, while the structural diaphragm (the core) resists lateral loads. In spite of its complexity, the entire building can be disassembled, all panels intact. The team collaborated with Laufs Engineering Design on the structural engineering and enlisted Steffan Elzinga of Wood Mgmt to help with construction. Although Governors Island officially opened yesterday, the Welcome Center will debut later this month. There's another new thing to see on the island, too: Team Aesop, the winner of this year's City of Dreams Pavilion competition, designed a crystalline shade structure from 300,000 melted aluminum cans.

City of Dreams winner will turn 300,000 aluminum cans into Governors Island Pavilion

After sifting through over 100 design proposals, the team of juries for the seventh annual City of Dreams Pavilion competition has selected Cast & Place by Team Aesop as the design for this year’s Governors Island Pavilion. The competition, sponsored by art non-profit FIGMENT, AIANY Emerging New York Architects (ENYA), and Structural Engineers Association of New York, asks designers to focus on the environmental and economic impacts of their designs and promote sustainable thinking. Cast & Place experiments with materiality and fabrication, testing to see if architecture could be constructed entirely from recycled materials. The team’s material pallet consists of 300,000 aluminum cans (the number of cans used in New York City in one hour, according to their Kickstarter), five tons of pure clay sourced from glacial deposits in Queens, and recycled wood. The pavilion will consist of two shade structures built from aluminum panels cast in cracked clay and will be surrounded by reflecting pools made from the clay formworks. The pools will be soaked by summer rain and then left to dry and crack in the heat, giving the audience a glimpse of the fabrication method for the panels. The process to create the panels is fairly simple: create molds from the reclaimed wood, fill them with clay, let the clay dry out and crack, and then fill the cracks with molten aluminum from melted-down cans. The canyons of clay become rivers of aluminum that connect to form one cohesive lightweight panel. The panels can then be joined and erected. When the pavilion is no longer in use, the panels can then be turned into benches furniture for the project’s supporters. So far the team has been able to cast small prototypes of the panels and has been working on methods of drying the clay to create enough cracks for a fully-formed panel. They have also been experimenting with their furnace to find the best method of melting down cans and casting the aluminum. As they continue to work toward a full-scale prototype, the project is waiting for approval from the city and for funding (via donations and sponsorships). According to their Kickstarter page, the project will require $30,000 to be feasible and the deadline for fundraising is March 27, 2017. If you are interested in learning more about the pavilion or wish to contribute to the pavilion’s construction, visit the project’s Kickstarter page here. Save Save Save Save

AN talks to Michael Samuelian, the next president and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island

With new leadership at its helm, Governors Island, the 172-acre island in the middle of New York Harbor, is poised for some exciting changes. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) spoke with Michael Samuelian about balancing public and private space in new developments, changes on the New York City waterfront, and his soon-to-be-finalized new job as president and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island. AN: You are a board member of Friends of Governors Island. How were you selected for your new role? Michael Samuelian: Through conversations with the mayor's office, with [deputy mayor] Alicia Glen's office, a few key people on the board of the Trust, some of whom I knew, some I didn't know. I don't know how many people they were speaking with at the time, it was not an atypical series of conversations; we spoke about the position, about why I wanted it, and how I can give back to the city. As a vice president at Related Companies you were responsible for the development of Hudson Yards, a project that weaves together public and private space. What lessons from that project will you be bringing to Governors Island? For the last couple of years I was predominately responsible for public space at the Yards, and its interaction with the High Line, the Shed, the Community Board, and the BID, all of the outward-facing entities, so I certainly learned about the balance of public and private needs on the job. I think that's one of the most important things I'll bring to Governors Island. Governors Island is not about creating the most value, necessarily, it's about creating the right mix of uses. That's what I'm most excited about. With Hudson Yards, it was about integrating the project with the rest of the neighborhood. With an island, there's not a lot of integration you can do, but you can focus on some of the most important aspects of public space, which are connectivity and vitality. That's what we want at Governors Island... to create a place that's a real destination, that New Yorkers fall in love with. There's a lot of development happening on the island's south side: The Hills were just completed and there are more opportunities for private development there as well. Could you speak to how you see those public and private spaces being integrated? The most important thing—one of the things the mayor and I discussed about the role—number one, is do no harm. Governors Island is a fantastic place today, and like a good doctor, you don't want to kill the patient, you want to make him better. Our challenge on Governors Island is that it's a fantastic place already, but how do we make it better? The issue of balance is important to me, figuring out what the right balance of public and private uses while making it even more accessible to people. While we have half a million people coming there per year; that pales in comparison to other public parks. One of my first priorities is getting more people, more New Yorkers, to the island and figuring out that right balance of uses. That will be through some additional private uses. But the number one thing is enhancing accessibility, getting more people to the island. There's some concern about private uses there and honestly I don't come with any predisposed notion of what should happen on the island. The other important concept is plurality. There's not one big idea that will make the island magical, it's already magical. It's really about finding the right balance of uses there. Aside from the public space, not one use should dominate the island; all the other uses should support the public space. I hear you. Is there an ideal balance of uses in your mind, though, or the Trust's mind? We have to figure that out. We really want to harness the energy of the city, and aside from housing, that could be any use under the sun: Institutional, cultural, commercial, retail, hotel. Our first task is to figure out what the appropriate mix of uses is, in order to answer the number one goal, which is enhancing access to the island. What are the great public uses that will get people to experience the island? All of the historic buildings, and the public spaces that just opened, those are starting to gain traction with visitors. For the first time, more people are coming to Governors Island from the Brooklyn side rather than the Manhattan side. I think that's an important thing for people to know. It's an island for everyone, not just north Brooklyn or lower Manhattan. It's an island for the entire city. The more we can get this on people's radar, the better we've done our job. In terms of broadening access to the island and on the island, are there any specific projects we should be looking out for? I think the mayor's plan for enhanced East River Ferry access is a great first step to get New Yorkers thinking about the water and waterborne transportation. Obviously, we are an island so we'd be the main beneficiary of that [laughs]. But with all the waterfront development that's happening in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, all along the Brooklyn waterfront, all of that will help us as more and more people build a relationship with the water, and being an island on the East River Ferry route, it's important that we are part of that conversation. There's so much development, as you said, happening on New York's waterfronts in all five boroughs. Do you see Governors Island setting a model for waterfront development in the city? I'm coming there as a neutral party, not predisposed to any particular uses, but we are starting with relatively neutral territory: We have a million square feet of empty historic buildings, we have the potential for a lot more development on the south side of the island, but there's no magic number, no magic piece that will make it all sing together. To use kind of a difficult term, it's about curating the right types of uses that will make Governors Island even more special. Interview edited and condensed for clarity.

AN tours the Hills on Governors Island with West 8’s Adriaan Geuze

"To get here, you take a ferry, you leave the city for a small vacation. The logic of the park is that you are being reborn," explained West 8 founding principal Adriaan Geuze, as he and The Architect's Newspaper ascended Outlook Hill on an uncharacteristically grey June morning. Despite the drizzle, the hill provides a vertiginous view of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Harbor, a not-seen-before perspective that is sure to induce awe in new visitors' eyes and spawn hundreds of thousands snaps for the ephemeral visual catalogues of Instagram, Facebook, and platforms yet unknown. The Hills on Governors Island, designed by West 8 with Mathews Nielsen, celebrates its public opening today, less than three years after its official groundbreaking. In contrast to parks that lure with slick design and entertainment options, its program is emphatically sincere: The names of the four hills—Outlook, Grassy, Slide, and Discovery—are honest indicators of their respective offerings. 26-foot-tall Grassy Hill provides a spread of green for vegetal lounging, while Discovery Hill hosts a site-specific cast concrete sculpture by artist Rachel Whiteread. Adjacent 70-foot-tall Outlook Hill tops out well above the treeline to offer panoramic views of the harbor, New Jersey, and three of five boroughs. Geuze veered from the paved path to climb the scramble, a pile of rectangular rocks gleaned from the island's former seawall that forms a non-linear path up Outlook Hill. Climbing up hand-over-foot, he gestured uphill: "Is this the path? Or is this the path? I like that ambiguity. Because its so informal, it allows you to colonize the space mentally, to say 'Hey! This is cool! Is this for me, or is it supposed to be for children?' The scramble triggers your attention and because it's not clear what it is, that gives you a sense of freedom. There's not a billboard to explain what this is. You're just aware of it." The designers were aware, too, of Olmsted's influence on New York City park design (and the parks' subsequent influence on New Yorkers ideas of nature) but the Hills is a departure from Olmsted's (faux) naturalistic aesthetic. The curvature and undulation of the landscape is dramatized by the Hill's white concrete edges which function "almost like eyeliner" and add an archness to the design. West 8 drew on a century of city park design by using 17 species of trees most commonly found in New York parks, although the plant configuration and selection on the most exposed areas respond directly to the windblown, salt-sprayed landscape. At ground level, the hills are planted with fast-growing grasses and covered with a layer of biodegradable coconut fiber to anchor the soil and prevent erosion, while lawns are self-draining (see diagrams above).

We moseyed down one of those lawns to Slide Hill, which features four alluring metal slides, short and long. The composition of the slides is reminiscent of those that West 8 designed for Madrid Río in 2011. This reporter was wearing an outfit that was unfortunately not conducive to sliding, but she did watch a landscape architect fly down the longest chute after taking measurements at the top of the hill. Despite the rain, she scooted down quickly.

On the golf cart back to the ferry terminal, Geuze considered Governors Island's place in New York. Reflecting the contradiction of its central location and relative isolation, he mused on the many views expressed in the harbor: "We tried in the design to expose all the layers," on and off the Hills. "On the ferry, you sit with people you don't know, people who may have a different social status or income. This is a democratic island, a place for people from all boroughs."

Ferries depart seven days per week from Manhattan and Brooklyn through September 25. The full schedule can be found here.

West 8 and Mathews Nielsen’s The Hills at Governors Island set to open next Tuesday

On April 9, 1776, General Israel Putnam of the Continental Army fortified Governors Island with mounds of earth to stave off the encroaching British Army. Now, Dutch firm West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture and local landscape architect Mathews Nielsen are essentially emulating Putnam’s plans to create an undulating, playful topography.

Known as “The Hills,” the project comprises four mounds made using recycled construction debris that form a rolling landscape with grassy slopes. Rising up to 70 feet, the tallest, “Outlook Hill,” will offer panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor, and all five boroughs.

The project is part of West 8’s master plan for the Governors Island park, encompassing 87 acres. The Hills adds 10 acres of greenery to the island, including 43,000 shrubs and more than 860 trees. At 38 feet high, the aptly named “Slide Hill” will feature four slides, one of which will be the longest in the city.

A “granite scramble” will also run through the site using blocks that once made up the island’s seawall. The scramble will link with other paths on “Discovery Hill,” which will be lined with a series of site-specific artistic installations.

“The ‘granite scramble’ presented a unique opportunity to recycle precious granite from the seawall, enriched with the scars of history,” said Adriaan Geuze, one of the founders of West 8. “We were convinced that this pile of granite rock offered the chance for a degree of informality throughout the park; the granite is laid out for seating, climbing, and pleasure.”

From an ecological perspective, the scheme contributes significantly to the vicinity. “By adding a minimum of soil above the salty groundwater, the park can perform as an ecosystem with the gradient of fresh brackish water,” said Geuze. “On top of this, hundreds of indigenous plants have been planted, and the island has been seeded with wild flowers, which creates a micro-biotope for millions of insects, and attracts birds.”

“Pleasure, journey, lightness, and playfulness” formed West 8’s initial approach and “a collective decision was made to avoid the cliché playground and to look for a form that could expand play beyond just children.”

Kickstarter campaign for a floating bridge from Brooklyn’s Red Hook to Governors Island

The Citizen Bridge will allow New Yorkers to walk on water over a leisurely six-block span from the piers of Red Hook to Governors Island. Think of it as an engineered version of the sandbar by which Brooklyn farmers once walked their cattle across Buttermilk Channel at low tide. A four-year adventure now in its seventh prototype, the floating pedestrian bridge is designed in its latest iteration from angular blocks of Styrofoam planked with plywood, fastened together and anchored at regular intervals for stability. The last prototype, the Superblock, withstood its first experiments in not plunging its inventor into the river. Pioneered by artist and designer Nancy Nowacek (full disclosure: a former Metropolis colleague and friend), its Kickstarter campaign launched last week evokes the spirit of invention that created the New York City subway system, except its creator doesn’t aspire to capitalize on alternatives to the dreary transportation of the day. The Citizen Bridge appeals to the collective power of residents to reshape the city and reclaim their relationship to the waterfront. “There should be space in waterways policy for imagination and innovation beyond navigating vessels,” Novacek said. Novacek is working with teams of structural and marine engineers from Thornton Tomasetti and Gloston, as well as architects, environmental lawyers, and sundry New York City bureaucrats and citizens to test the floating devices and navigate regulatory issues. The project has been buoyed by residencies on all sides of the East River, among them a current one at Eyebeam in Sunset Park, as well as at the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program in DUMBO, a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Swing Space residency on Governors Island, and a Recess studio at Pioneer Works in Red Hook. The $25,000 crowdfunding campaign will pay for a 100-foot proof-of-concept from Brooklyn Bridge Park to a temporary anchorage platform and back. To accommodate the final 1,200-to-1,400-foot installation, for one day each year, maritime traffic would be rerouted around Governors Island as a part of a summer celebration of the waterways. “The goal of the project writ large is to get people to turn back towards the water,” Novacek said, “and to think broadly about what it means to be living in a coastal city, all of the ways in which the water will affect us, and all of the ways in which we can learn to come to terms and cope with that.” The system, which could eventually cost more than one million dollar to complete, might be capable of being shipped and deployed in other locations around the world.

This pavilion made from thousands of old clothes hangers will cast fractal shadows on Governors Island this summer

The day after New York City’s first snowstorm (albeit a miniature one), allow yourself to day-dream about visiting the City of Dreams Pavilion on Governors Island during a breezy summer's day in 2016. The competition, hosted by FIGMENT, the Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) of the AIA New York (AIANY), and the Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY), hopes to “Focus on the future of a world that faces strains on both economic and natural resources, aims to promote sustainability-oriented thinking amidst the architecture and design communities.” A jury reviewed over 100 design proposals and selected four finalists. Each team then had a month to further develop their projects based on comments form the jury. The winner for the sixth annual installation has been announced as Hanger Barn by Folio. The firm's design “turns recycled clothes hangers into a pavilion using modular design techniques," according to a statement from FIGMENT. "It also creates the illusion of motion due to the placement of the hangers in fractal patterns, which create shadow effects on the ground below that change with the movement of the sun. The modular design is composed of the hanger’s original triangle shape, rotated and paired with mirrored segments that connect with zip ties. The intention is for the materials to be reused after disassembly at various sites around New York City.” The three additional finalists included: Catch Me if You Can by Multiply (Armand Devillard, Victor Diaz Ortega, and Nicolas Moser) According to FIGMENT:

The pavilion is an evocation of childhood memories: a large corn field sheltered under a light canopy, where visitors can relive a first hidden kiss, a game of hide and seek, a nap, or a racing slalom through twisting paths. The pavilion will use slalom gates, which are useless during summer, borrowed from a ski resort outside NYC and returned for the next ski season.

Nooks and Granny Squares by Crystal Collado and Kara Vujanovich According to FIGMENT:

Nooks and Granny Squares invites visitors to experience different spaces created by dome-shaped structures and a tactile skin. The main public space, formed by two large domes, allows visitors to gather in the shade and enjoy a performance. The crocheted skin is comprised of panels made up of recycled plastic bags and separates a semi-private interconnected cove from the main space, while partially open to the views of Governors Island. The nook, independent from the other domes, functions as a snug and private space for up to four people. Open and closed weaves allow light to filter into the pavilion during the day and escape at night, creating memorable moments at any time of the day.

Pneu Pavilion by Nicholas Bruscia, Christopher Romano and Daniel Vrana w/ Alessandro Traverso and Martina Mongiardino (Absolute Joint System) According to FIGMENT:

The Pneu Pavilion is a lightweight, air filled structure suspended at varying heights to create a smooth gradient between tall and short spaces, accommodating a wide range of age groups and activities. The tensile structure is made entirely from demountable and reusable structural components, while the inflated structural pillows are built from recycled vehicle inner tubes contained within layers of porous mesh.  The air pressure in the skin allows the thin material to achieve the large span between the lenticular cable trusses, providing a soft surface that encourages viewers to interact with it, while the repeating pillow-like forms give the canopy a cloud-like appearance.

Pictorial> The Hills come alive on Governors Island

Standing near the top of Outlook Hill, Leslie Koch, president of The Trust for Governors Island, explained the reason for commissioning four huge earth mounds on an island in the middle of New York Harbor. "Most New Yorkers don't experience that fancy view [of the skyline]. You don't get to see the city on high from the city that created views." The Hills, part of a $220 million renovation of Governors Island, do create new ways of viewing the city and its surroundings. Landscape architecture firm West 8 was selected in 2007 to produce a master plan for Governors Island that included redesigns of the entire former military facility. Construction of the Hills began in 2013. Design was preceded by extensive on-site observation: the design team, led by Adriaan Geuze and Jamie Maslyn, spent hundreds of hours observing how visitors used the space. Maslyn noted that, for example, adults were using the swing sets intended for children. Discovery and play, consequently, are two themes that predominate in the realized design. To get to the site, visitors pass through a 40 acre welcome area. The space is meant for slow-paced leisure: reading, napping in hammocks, meandering through flower beds. The topography here creates a threshold for the rest of the site. Approached from the welcome area, the four hills rise smoothly from the level base of the island. Bright white concrete edging, to Geuze, "paints the topography more dramatically" and differentiates between fast and slow spaces. There is no main, or suggested, path to approach the hills. The paths fork in equally appealing directions, affording glimpses of the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan, or the Verrazano, depending on which way one turns. The hills obscure and reveal these sites gently, manipulating the horizon dramatically while accommodating a range of programs. Ranging in height from 25 to 70 feet, the names of the hills—Outlook, Slide, Discovery, and Grassy—correspond with their most salient feature. "Each of the hills," Koch noted, "embodies one of the attributes New Yorkers love about the island." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK7Xay5JQoY A zigzag path takes visitors up to the apex of Outlook Hill, 70 feet above ground. The vantage point afforded by the new topography allows visitors to see, standing still, the East and Hudson Rivers, Buttermilk Channel, New York Harbor, and the mouth of the Atlantic.  The design team was intent upon creating a way  for people of all ages and abilities to experience this view. All of the paved paths are at a maximum 4.5 percent slope: ADA compliant and wheelchair friendly. Granite blocks, harvested from the island's 1905 sea wall, create scrambles up the hillside to engage young people (or adventurous adults). Adjacent Slide Hill (40 feet high) will feature elements of pure play: four long slides. Discovery Hill (40 feet) will host a permanent installation by sculptor Rachel Whiteread, while Grassy Hill (25 feet) will be a place to relax on a sloping lawn. Governors Island's exposed location makes it vulnerable to the effects of both normal and extreme weather. To prevent the hills from shifting, settlement plates were planted at the base of the hills to measure changes in elevation. Molly Bourne, principal at Mathews Nielsen, vetted plants on their ability to withstand salt spray and high winds. Sumac and oak trees (around 860), as well as 43,000 maritime shrubs, will adapt to harsh conditions on the island. Storm resiliency is an integral feature of the design. Post-Sandy, 2.2 miles of sea wall, erected in 1905, were replaced in 2014 by a more modern fortification. Some of the pieces were repurposed as infill, along with an imploded building and a parking lot on the site of the Hills. In all, 25 percent of the fill is from the island, while the rest of was delivered via barge down the Hudson. While the Hills' official public opening is set for 2017, the site is open for previews on September 26th and 27th. Details here.

Broken umbrellas and bicycle wheels get a second life in these two, completely recyclable pavilions on Governors Island

Two whimsical summer pavilions on New York City's Governors Island have been slated for reuse elsewhere, themselves built from recycled and repurposed materials. The Billion Oyster Pavilion by BanG Studio and the Organic Growth Pavilion by Izaskun Chinchilla Architects both tied as winners in the annual City of Dreams design competition, and the jury, torn between the two, greenlighted both pavilions, launching a dedicated Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund their construction. The pavilions will soon reincarnate as decorative chandeliers, sun canopies, and oyster beds. Conceptualized for this very purpose, the Billion Oyster Pavilion is made from nylon rope, steel rebars, clamps, and custom cast-concrete blocks, and will form part of a Governors Island high school’s years-long initiative to restore oyster beds in the New York Harbor. Serving as a natural water filter, oyster beds would help vastly improve water quality. Meanwhile, the Organic Growth Pavilion also flags garbage as an epidemic while aiming to recontextualize waste as a resource. Fabricated from broken umbrellas, bicycle wheels, and old stools, it forms a series of plant-like structures in a collective canopy measuring 1,223 square feet. The canopy will be broken up and distributed to sites across the city for use as decorative chandeliers or smaller shade structures. “The jury saw that the Billion Oyster Pavilion and Organic Growth were both incredibly interesting designs that interpret the competition brief in completely different ways,” said David Koren, executive producer of Figment, a non-profit organization that organizes the City of Dreams competition with the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter’s Emerging Architects Committee. “Perhaps we can create some really exciting dialogue around temporary architecture and sustainability.”