As an entry to an international ideas competition, HM White proposes to develop seven-acres of former industrial land on New York City’s East River as both a dynamic public park organized for waterfront recreation and a unique cultural venue choreographed for theatrical expression and experience—“Performance Park”.
Drawing from the site’s industrial heritage, the park design is inspired by rail interchange systems to extend the urban streetscape into the park and link it with sustainable river landscape ecology.
The concept proposes to sculpt the site’s flat terrain and interweave a network of paths, platforms and structural elements to emphasize experience of the river’s edge, showcase urban views and catalyze performance/art installation potential.
Recently designated as East River State Park, the site was formerly part of a major industrial center and marine-rail terminal.
Until the late 1800s, the river’s natural shoreline undulated along Kent Avenue and its wetlands were rapidly filled-in to support a web of train rail lines and shipping piers and establish the present Williamsburg street grid.
Today, Williamsburg is a hotbed of urban revitalization renowned for its vibrant artist community and historic industrial character.
• Pavilion: Architectural pavilions house park amenity services—box office, visitor lounge, public restrooms, local restaurant food kiosks, dressing rooms, and a winter event gallery. The structures emerge as transparent extensions of the rolling landscape and support suspended canopy structures sheltering primary park entrances.
• Path: A network of paved walkways weaves through the shifting landscape and links the streetscape with the river and park interior. The River Loop provides expedient elevated catwalk access to water taxi transportation services and intimate perspectives of the wetland edge while the Overlook Pier functions as a contemplative observation promenade.
• Platform: A system of plazas and stages anchor the parkscape and provide flexible spaces for public gathering, recreation, market, event, theatrical performance, and art installation. The large entrance plaza allows for event cueing, farmer’s market and impromptu street performances while the Balcony supports elevated seating for large performances in the evening and sun deck lounging during the day.
• Tower: Flanking primary stages like conductor batons, three sculptural crane towers control adaptable rigging systems for suspended theatrical lighting grids, scrims and projection screens.
• Meadow Berms: Vegetated ridgelines permeate and frame the park to immerse visitors into the landscape. The swelling berms highlight riparian grass meadows crested by tree groves extending into the streetscape and establishing visual screening from adjacent high-rise developments.
• Ampitheater Lawn: A series of warped lawn planes form a sculpted amphitheater surrounding the Main Stage for flexible audience seating or lounging on the grass to view the city backdrop.
• River Swath: Expanding the river’s edge into the park forms a tidal inlet channel and marks its pre-industrial expanse with a series of cascading pools. Layered swathes of wetland meadow plantings along the river’s edge restore its brackish wetland ecology and establish a storm water capture and remediation zone for the park.
Design Firm: HM White
Organizers: Sucker Punch Competition
Competition Title: Williamsburg Waterfront Performance Venue
Project Title: Performance Park
Locations: Brooklyn, New York
IMAGES & Text: © HM White