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Friday, August 03, 2012

Half Dose #108: Digital Water Pavilion

Digital Water Pavilion
[Looking south at halfway point along curved wall | Photographs by John Hill]

Yesterday I found myself in Battery Park City (BPC), so I stopped by the Community Center designed by hanrahan Meyers architects (hMa) to see how construction was going. It appears that the Digital Water Pavilion (DWP), as the architects call it, is just about done.

Digital Water Pavilion
[Looking north at halfway point along curved wall]

The low, curving pavilion sits in the North Neighborhood beneath two residential towers; together they comprise the last pieces in the whole BPC development. Facing east, overlooking a couple ball fields, is the curving wall -- 550 feet (167 meters) long. Curving walls are nothing new in BPC, but most of them (Riverhouse, Solaire, Visionaire, Ritz Carlton) derive their shape from the north-south roads that traverse the development (map for reference). The DWP's wall is more unprecedented, serving to shape the outdoor space, while also connecting points on the north and south (left and right in the below plan, respectively) through its gentle curve, rather than a straight line.

hma-bpc-plan.jpg
[Top: Digital Water Pavilion plan (source) | Bottom: Chiba Golf Club plan (source)]

I'm a huge fans of curves like this, and immediately the DWP reminds me of Morphosis's unbuilt Chiba Golf Club, shown above for reference. I don't think hMa were necessarily influenced by this project, but the way that each plan uses a curve to embrace an expansive landscape points to the potential in wide, sweeping arcs. Just think of the colonnades of St. Peter's Square as a distant precedent.

Digital Water Pavilion
[The southernmost end of the 550-foot-long glass wall]

As mentioned, the wall aligns with something beyond (behind us in the photo), namely the public arcade between Goldman Sachs and the Conrad Hotel. This alignment, and the way that hMa's design creates lower and upper walkways, provides north-south pedestrian paths that link with other parts of BPC. One block further south, the arcade designed by Preston Scott Cohen aligns with the interior arcade of the World Financial Center.

Digital Water Pavilion
[The northernmost end of the 550-foot-long glass wall]

The north end does not align with something like the public arcade, but if one were to head right in the photo a few steps away is Teardrop Park, a rugged landscape between a number of earlier Northern Neighborhood towers. The top and previous photos show an interesting detail: the glass wall detaches itself from the enclosed spaces at the ends, so it is propped up by steel bracing.

Digital Water Pavilion
[The north garden tucked underneath the ramp to the upper level]

Digital Water Pavilion
[Access to the upper walkway on the north end]

Digital Water Pavilion

Ultimately the curve's relationship to the ball fields comes to the fore. On the upper level (photo above), the benches face them and become a place for parents and fans to watch soccer and baseball. Downstairs, the fields constrict the space next to the "water wall" (so called because it is "a patterned interpretation of a composition, ‘WATER’, commissioned from New York City composer Michael Schumacher") through the necessary protective nets and the cages around home plate.

Digital Water Pavilion
[Looking south from near north courtyard]

10 comments:

  1. Hello, my name is Déborah Felinto, I am a brazilian student of Architeture and I liked your blog very much. I'd like to know if you have some photo of these benchs, i wanted to insert them in a project that i'm doing for university. Since now, i thank you.

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    1. Just what you see. I don't have other photos of the fences. Try contacting the architects, as they probably have photos from construction visits.

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    2. I meant benches. Damn Mac auto-spell!

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  2. By way of preface: I moved out of NYC in 1992. Last September I took the ferry from Hoboken to The World Financial Center to walk around and see what was happening here. In 1992 this was all just landfill. Comment: A map indicating this glass wall would be really usefuul; from the google map I have no idea where it sits.
    Comment 2: Great blog.

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    1. 1: The aerial predates construction of the building, but the the layout of the curve is evident here. 2: Thanks!

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  3. nice write of another well thought-out space in Battery Park City. For me, only visiting this site once, at dusk as a baseball game was underway, the curve seemed to be not as significant as the section. The sequence of spaces from the east to west form a great outdoor room, enclosed by the office towers across the west side the highway, to the flat ballfields, to the lower and upper walkway levels at the base of the residential towers. Being able to stand on the upper level and watch the games on the illuminated fields below (and little league fields at that!) reminds me of the simial effect that can only be had at a professional stadium. The effect of the sweeping curve in enclosing the ballfields could have been done in other ways, a stepped plan, diagonals or an asymmetrical combination of such geometries, the section of tiered viewing platforms is truly unique.

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    1. The section is also important because the top level between the towers connects North End Street to the west with the ball fields. One needs only to use the central stair to have direct access on that east-west axis. In that sense, the project also reminds me of another curving project: Santiago Calatrava's Stadelhofen Train Station in Zurich. That project does a great job of connecting low and high levels across the tracks.

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  4. yes - the connections at the upper level to the existing pathways, parks and streets are good, and they reveal themselves gradually as one walks through the area, instead of in grand, or overt way. It makes for a nice series of surprises, kind of like the experience of walking through nearby teardrop park. In general, the planning is well considered and resolved, but this only makes some of the detailing seem too fussy or over designed in comparison, in my opinion - especially the bracing at the ends of the glass wall. This may sound peculiar, but the work strikes me as something that could only have been done by a (second-tier or mid-level) American firm that hasn't done much work with public agencies - I just can't picture German or Japanese architects accepting details that are unresolved like these are here. But perhaps, it also would have been interesting to see what someone like DS+R or SHoP would have done. Anyway, thanks for covering the project!

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  5. Nice article about Digital Water Pavilion! Once I modeled it in 3D as a personal project. Your images were very helpful as a reference. Thanks!

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