The focus of the Hudson River Park Trust’s redevelopment of Pier 26 in New York City’s Hudson River Park was the ecology of the river estuary itself. The redesigned park, which opened in September 2020, is now connecting people to that diverse ecology in a multitude of ways.

The Philadelphia studio of the international landscape architecture firm OLIN made it its mission to make those connections to the river deliberate and apparent. “The Trust looked at Hudson River Park’s Pier 26 as a platform for education. Our design points to ecological features throughout the park, but the most important feature is always the river,” OLIN project manager Demetrios Staurinos says. The 2.6-acre park transports people through five unique ecological zones from the bulkhead to the river—a “curated journey through the landscape,” as OLIN CEO and partner in charge Lucinda Sanders puts it. An 850-foot-long wall with a pathway takes visitors from the bulkhead to the water’s edge. Along the river, the deck includes a 400-foot-long wall.

OLIN turned to Landscape Forms’ Studio 431 to engineer and construct the wall, which wraps around and cantilevers from the pier. The height of the wall starts at 42 inches and rises to seven feet before descending back to handrail height. It also integrates furnishings, including a 35-foot-long bar, bar stools, and 95 linear feet of lounge benching. “We wanted to create a large piece of furniture, not something that simply sat atop the pier. The wrapped wall acts as a skin, a singular gesture, and a sculptural experience that is beautiful from all angles,” OLIN lead designer Trevor Lee says.

Studio 431 considered how each piece of the wall would be assembled and installed, how the construction would lend itself to future repair and maintenance, and how the design could maintain the integrity of OLIN’s concept. The wall comprises 3,500 individual boards, 438 of which are unique profiles, each of which required its own CNC program. The wall was secured to the pier with a series of stainless steel fins spaced several feet apart, anchored into the pier, and then concealed by the boards wrapping the pier; there are no exposed fasteners.

“Each wall section was unique based on the fact that the wall rises and falls,” OLIN senior landscape architect Jamee Kominsky says. “And each section takes on its own personality, whether a vertical surface or a seat or bench or a window with illumination that contours into a bar with stools and integrated footrests. The wall is seamless and feels like the deck itself is folding up and over the pier wall. It truly is a showcase piece.”