Race Street Pier

Landscape Architecture: James Corner Field Operations
Client: Delaware River Waterfront Corp.
Design Team: James Corner, Lisa Switkin, Jayyun Jung, Yoshi Harada, Kimberly Cooper
Consultants: Langan Engineering, CHPlanning, VJ Associates
Size: 1 Acre
Budget: $5 million
Planning: 2009-2010
Construction: 2011
Text & photos: James Corner Field Operations

 

Facts:

1. Trees: The 37 large caliper Swamp White Oak (Quercus bicolor) trees are very special. They were cultivated for four years at a nursery in Millstone, N.J for the World Trade Center Memorial at Ground Zero in New York City.

2. Grasses and Perennials: Almost 10,250 individual 4 inch pots of shade tolerant grasses and perennials were planted in weathered steel planters to increase diversity and add texture, color and seasonal interest.

3. Lighting: The park’s setting under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is spectacular at night; therefore the park was designed to be enjoyed in the evening as well as during the day with extensive lighting including 200 LED Solar Light Blocks embedded into the paving.

4. Paving: The paving on the upper level ramp is Trex, a sustainable synthetic decking material made out of reclaimed plastic and wood. Once complete, this will be one of the largest public installation of Trex decking in the country.

5. Railings: The perimeter railing leans at a 65 degree angle towards the pier, further accentuating the forced one-point perspective of the ramp rising along the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Lights are incorporated into railing on the lower level.

6. Seating Steps: Tiered seating terraces link the upper and lower levels and create a destination at the end of the pier for viewing, gathering, and contemplation.

7. Wharf Drops: 2 wharf-drops on the lower level originally used to unload cargo for shipping were retrofitted and integrated into the new park. They are covered with transparent metal grating and a portion of one has been left open for users to experience the river in an unusual and authentic way.

8. Fill: Over 2,000 cubic yards of geofoam fill was used to form the sky promenade on the upper level.

9. Tides: The Delaware River is tidal, fluctuating an average of six feet in elevation a day. At mean high water level, the lower level of the pier will be approximately 4.5 feet above the river, making the Race Street Pier one of rare places where you can get close to the water. The Race Street Pier is also a tidal register, where you can find out the forecast for high and low tides for the City of Philadelphia.

 

Aerial view from Benjamin Franklin bridge, looking West.

(Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

Aerial view of the newly planted Entry Plaza and beginning of the Skywalk Promenade

(Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

 

The Bridge Allee is comprised of 25 large Swamp White Oak trees.  This line of trees reinforces the slice of the pier into two levels. (Image Credit: Edward Savaria Jr and Suzanne Savaria)

 

Looking to the end of the pier along the ramp, which connects the upper and lower levels of the Race Street Pier. (Image Credit: Edward Savaria Jr and Suzanne Savaria)

 

The Seating terrace and Sun Lawn provide ample spots for gathering, people watching and other leisure activities. (Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

View of the Sky Promenade facing West – the decking is made of Trex, a sustainable synthetic material made of reclaimed plastic and wood. (Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

At night, 200 Solar LED lights embedded into the paving enhance the spectacular setting under the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. (Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

Evening view toward the Philadelphia skyline along the Ramp, which traverses the slice and connects the upper and lower levels of the Race Street Pier. (Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

 

The Seating Terraces link the upper and lower levels of the Race Street Pier, and provide ample space for viewing, gathering and contemplation. (Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

Reaching a height of 12’ above the water, the River Overlook rewards visitors with panoramic views of the river and City Skyline. (Image credit: Edward Savaria Jr and Suzanne Savaria)

 

View of the Pier, looking East toward Camden with Benjamin Franklin Bridge above.

 (Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

Evening view highlighting the rise of the Sky Promenade on the North side of the Pier, with the Benjamin Franklin Bridge above.  (Image Credit: Edward Savaria Jr and Suzanne Savaria)

 

Evening event on the Race Street Pier with Fireworks celebration.

(Image Credit: Edward Savaria Jr and Suzanne Savaria)

 

A child runs along the ramp that connects the Seating Terrace, with the Skywalk Promenade.

(Image Credit: Edward Savaria Jr and Suzanne Savaria)

 

Aerial view from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, looking East. (Image credit: Christian Carollo)

 

Illustrative Plan of the Race Street Pier. (Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

 

Cross section drawing of the Race Street Pier. (Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

Plan with locations of main design elements in the park (Image credit: James Corner Field Operations)

 

View looking East toward the Camden waterfront, with the Benjamin Franklin Bridge overhead. (Image credit: Barrett Doherty)

 

 

View looking South of the Terrace, the Delaware River and Walt Whitman Bridge beyond.  The terrace paving  is inset with solar-powered LED light pavers. (Image credit: Barrett Doherty)

 

 

The Riverwalk on the South side of the Pier features lushly planted woodland beds, and a lawn for informal gatherings, and sunbathing. (Image credit: Barrett Doherty)

 

 A formerly vacant municipal pier, the 1-acre Race Street Pier is located on the Delaware River adjacent to the historic and vibrant Old City neighborhood in the heart of Philadelphia. At the foot of the monumental Benjamin Franklin Bridge, the Race Street Pier is at the eastern terminus of Race Street- one of a few streets in Philadelphia with an at-grade crossing under the 1-95 expressway, providing a rare direct connection between the city and the river. Extending over 500 feet out into the water and only 80 feet wide, the Race Street Pier is exposed, long and narrow. The Delaware River is tidal, with fluctuations of an average of six feet in elevation each day.  At mean high water level, the lower level of the pier is approximately 4.5 feet above the river, making the Pier one of rare places along the river where you can get close to the water.

 

Design: Formerly Municipal Pier 11, JCFO initiated renaming the pier as the Race Street Pier to further reinforce its relationship to the City and reinstate its historic name.  Construction of the original Race Street Pier began in 1896 including a large building built on two levels to serve different functions; the lower level for shipping and the upper level for recreation. As a nod to its past, the physical design of the new pier is split into two levels – an upper level with a grand sky promenade and a lower level for passive recreation and social gathering. This split level design expands the perceived space of the long and narrow pier, allowing for a variety of spatial experiences, features and settings. A dramatic ramp rises twelve feet into the air along the north face of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, dramatizing the sense of arriving in the space of the river through a forced one-point perspective and allowing for rare views back to the City. This ‘Sky Promenade’ takes you out into the river ending with a face-to-face encounter with the majestic stone abutment of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Because the elevation increases by 15 feet at the end of the boardwalk, you feel as if you are standing on the prow of a ship, with the broad curve of the Delaware unfurling in both directions. The upper level ramp is built using Trex®, a sustainable synthetic decking material made out of reclaimed plastic and wood. The Race Street Pier is one of the largest public installations of Trex® decking in the country.

 

A sun-filled lower level supports a multi-purpose lawn, planting beds and a variety of social seating spaces which provide for a relaxing respite in the heart of the city.  The lower level features a bay walk along the pier’s edge and 2 retrofitted wharf-drops originally used to unload cargo for shipping. The wharf drops are covered with transparent metal grating and a portion of one has been left open for users to experience the river in an unusual and authentic way.  The pier’s setting under the Ben Franklin Bridge is spectacular at night; therefore the park was designed to be enjoyed in the evening as well as during the day with extensive lighting including 200 LED Solar Light Blocks embedded into the pavers which illuminate the lower level spaces.

 

The two levels are linked by a generous seating terrace that wraps around the end of the pier amplifying the sensation associated with being on the edge of the river. The seating terraces also frame a casual event space on the lower level below. The level split is further marked and intensified by, a row of 25-foot-tall swamp white oaks, which were acquired as surplus from the ground zero memorial project in New York. These special trees add vertical presence to the pier as well as exaggerate the perspective and draw the eye toward the water. Both the upper and lower level feature perimeter railing that leans at a 65 degree angle towards the pier, providing on the lower level a comfortable place to stand and reflect close to the water and further accentuating the forced one-point perspective of the ramp rising along the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on the upper level.

 

Like a natural landscape, the Pier contains multiple ecosystems. It moves from lowland to upland, from the open boardwalk savannah through a stand of swamp white oaks and sweet gums, and down to a soft mound of an oval lawn.

2 Comments
  • […] with the waterfront, a difficult goal due to the fluctuations of the Delaware River.  Yet, Race Street Pier by James Corner Field Operations has achieved this.  The Patch/Work project won the Cities That […]


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