a computer generated image of a house on a hill

Stemming the tide

By: Scott Henson

Editorial for World Architecture News.

The New York Restoration Project recently announced that architecture firm Bade Stageberg Cox (BSC) had won its EDGEucation Pavilion Design Competition to create a state-of-the-art flood-resistant outdoor recreation and learning centre at Sherman Creek Park on the Harlem River shoreline in New York.

With sustainable design and layout and porous building materials that complement the natural environment, BSC’s winning vision, entitled Edge Portals, outfits the flood plain with permeable landscaping and learning stations. NYRP educators will expand programming with interactive curriculum that encompasses ecological field study with local youth. The Pavilion will increase access to the waterfront, promote environmental stewardship and education and revive recreational rowing, once vibrant in this part of the Harlem River.

The Pavilion’s site, currently known as the “Former Boat Club Site,” is a flood plain zone frequently inundated by storms and tides. BSC’s winning design incorporates flooding as an integral part of the life cycle of the architecture. It consists of two buildings, an open classroom and a boat storage building, situated along the site’s newly constructed shoreline. The layout places the buildings on twin peninsulas at the water’s edge and orients the structures towards the water, creating a direct connection with the river.

“We chose to site the buildings on the peninsulas where the land interlocks with the river, directly engaging the waterfront and highlighting the relationship between the city and the river,” said Tim Bade, Principal at Bade Stageberg Cox.

“Together, the classroom and boathouse form a threshold between land and water,” he added.

To address flooding, the classroom and boat storage building are constructed with a metal skin made of expanded weathered steel panels, with slotted openings that allow water to flow in and out freely. In addition, a cistern will store and reuse storm water for garden irrigation, and a rock garden at the site’s lowest elevation will collect storm water and run-off.

An opportunity for learning
As well as its resilience to storms, the Pavilion also allows NYRP’s education team to embrace the natural environment and storm events as learning opportunities. The open classroom will have sustainable features that complement and interact with the natural environment, such as a rainwater skylight to provide natural light within the space and act as a rainfall gauge, and water tables at which children can conduct water testing and analyze microbial samples with microscopes.

The design incorporates a ‘science cove’, a waterside classroom for educational programming and active engagement with the river. This cove is created by passageways leading from the peninsulas to a floating dock. It will host a variety of activities, including seining, wildlife observation, oyster gardening, and boating instruction protected from boat wakes and river turbulence. The site will also feature benches that also act as 100-year flood markers, ‘tidal mirrors’ that capture water and mark high and low tides and a solar garden with photovoltaic panels that will power path and building lighting.

Together, the buildings and landscape offer rich opportunities for boating, recreation, and the exploration of nature and science. With goals to secure funding for the project, estimated at approximately $1 million, the new site will harbor a vibrant waterfront culture that has been absent from this region for decades.

NYRP launched the competition in July to ensure storm and social resilience along the Harlem River shoreline at Sherman Creek Park, which is located in a traditionally under-resourced region of New York City.

In response to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposition to increase resilience of infrastructure citywide, NYRP invited eight emerging NYC-based architecture firms to participate. In September, NYRP shortlisted BSC along with three other finalists, Desai/Chia Architecture, Urban Data + Design, and WORKac.

The eight firms that participated in the competition will showcase their work at an upcoming exhibition about storm-resilient design at the American Institute for Architects’ Center for Architecture starting on February 6.

“We’re thrilled to see such innovative and creative proposals responding to our call for storm-resistant architecture on the banks of the Harlem River,” said Amy Freitag, NYRP Executive Director.

“BSC’s thoughtful approach to providing access to the water’s edge directly responds to the city’s call for resilient design, making Sherman Creek Park a spectacular destination for local residents, students, rowers and anyone who seeks to discover the Northern Manhattan waterfront park,” she added.

The New York Restoration Project (NYRP), founded by actor Bette Midler in 1995, is a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming open space in under-resourced communities to create a greener, more sustainable New York City.


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