Landscape Architecture: W-Architecture
Location: Brooklyn, NY, USA
Complete Date: March 2011
Images Credit: Alison Cartwright
The Williamsburg waterfront has been dominated by industry and its relics for over a century–making it largely off limits to the public. New zoning is changing the public interface with the water’s edge by increasing density and emphasizing waterfront access. The “Edge” park seeks to bring people to the river and link the ecosystem with the fabric of the community. As landscape architect for both the new residential towers and the public waterfront park, we have the challenge of ensuring that the towers act not as symbolic fences blocking public access and views of the East River and Manhattan but as gateways to the river with corridors providing visual connection to the iconic skyline.
Our plan unites both sides of the river by using the piers to re-orient views across – especially directed toward the Empire State Building. The design emphasizes the confrontation of forces at the water edge and encourages public use. Here, the city grid and the river’s ecosystem converge, mingle, and clash: the road turns into a pedestrian greenway, a garage is surmounted with a sloping lawn, piers reach gently into the water from deep within the park and stone riverbank contrasts with concrete bulkhead. This blurring of the boundaries between land and water extends the waterfront benefits inland to the community.
The synthesis and separation of private and public space, and architecture and ecology required a complex series of collaborations with community groups, the developer, the city government, and engineers. This former industrial site is now 50% permeable, planted with many native species and part of the LEED Silver rating for the project. The park was a critical part of the approvals for the project, and maintenance agreements were negotiated with the City Parks Department. The new piers underwent extensive reviews by the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Environmental Protection.