Project DescriptionCategory: Play
Two hundred years ago, Hunter’s Point in Queens, N.Y., was no more than a swath of wetlands. But in the intervening years, the site’s proximity to the water and to rail lines made it a perfect spot for industry, and nature was crowded out by warehouses, factories, and the like. With industry on the wane, Thomas Balsley Associates and Weiss/Manfredi sought to return a 9.5-acre parcel along the East River to its natural roots, creating a new public park with recreational facilities, gardens, a dog run, and an esplanade connecting the facilities to the disused beachfront.
Central to the project is a multi-use oval, which serves as a landscaped play field for most of the year, but can also serve as an overflow area for storm surge on the flood-prone site. Adjacent to the oval, a curved pavilion with a bent-steel canopy houses Parks Department offices as well as restrooms and a café. The structure is designed to withstand uplift in case of flooding, and its roof directs rainwater into bioswales that manage stormwater onsite.
The jury was impressed by the project’s approach to both resilient design and urban planning. “It is modest, but I think it’s a very compelling project on many levels,” juror Sheila Kennedy said. “It’s very well integrated, and it’s inventive because this is creating a new urban beach where there was nothing.” And, perhaps most importantly, the panel also appreciated how the project lends a sense of place to the site. “I like how it’s a space that doesn’t feel like it’s imposing on any kind of behavior,” juror Cathy Lang Ho said. “You can still go out there and hang out and play, but it is nicely structured.” —Katie Gerfen