Situated at the tip of Manhattan, the original site was created using the excavation from the construction of the World Trade Center towers. Unoccupied for a number of years, this sand and tar-surfaced lunar landscape seemed more like a stage set than a part of Manhattan. The quality of artifice (this new “land” actually had water flowing under its edge) informed the project from its beginning. The primary strategy was to take this structure apart, cutting down and through the edge, opening up the platform to reveal its under-structure, and allow a variety of means of heightened access to the water. For residents of an island with very little contact with the waterfront, the site offered the possibility of getting close to the water, actually smelling it, hearing it, getting wet.
As the visitor emerges from the density of the city the project makes it very clear that this is the edge. The land is literally taken apart and deconstructed. The built and ‘natural’ landscapes are laid out for examination, consideration, and potential redefinition of their relationships. The people who use the space become the visceral connectors between the land and the water, the built environment and natural resources, the ones who are in a position to define what that relationship will be in the future. This extreme closeness creates a sensuous pact with the river itself and becomes another means of engagement in this place where many layers of experience are possible.
As the esplanade enters the project from the north, it splits in two parts: one walkway continues at the same level around the back edge of the site while another ramps down to a lower level. A wooden walk attached to the north wall of the cove steps down even closer to the water and is actually covered in very high tides or storms. The main lower walk continues the length of the cove between pilings in the water and rocks and grasses on land. The pilings seem to visually stitch together the land and water. The upper walk goes through a grove of honey locust trees and planted beds. At the south end of the cove from the elevated position of an overlook it is possible to look out over the cut out platform and to see the under-structure of the pile caps and water beneath it. Adjacent to the platform there is a surface in the water that seems to have been removed from the cut-out. The walkway continues out over the water as the curving hybrid of a pier and loggia with benches; this is a place to spend time. It is a space that allows for the emotional content of private thoughts and reflections to coexist in the public life of a city.
-Collaboration with Susan Child, Landscape Architect and Stanton Eckstut, Architect