Bespoke Design Celebrates a Breathtaking View: Inside Pier 17’s Custom Site Furnishings

The history of NYC’s Pier 17 is a tale of maritime activity, revitalization, recession, and heavy damage due to Hurricane Sandy. But in 2018, a completely new Pier 17 emerged. This vibrant new chapter adds good times and a flurry of pedestrian activity to Pier 17’s story.

SHoP Architects, the NYC-based firm that had been involved in the development of the pier for over a decade, was finally able to realize its vision of a lively space that celebrates Pier 17’s unmatched views of some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty.

SHoP Architects’ Scot Teti, along with assistance from Associate Principal Angelica Baccon, managed the complex project, coordinating with several consultants and stakeholders, from the City of New York and Landmarks Commission to landscape architect James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) to Landscape Forms’ Studio 431, which created the distinctive suite of custom site furnishings.

Studio 431’s work at Pier 17 includes nine different bench styles on the ground and roof decks, giving people plenty of different ways to engage with the space. The benches, both with and without arms and backs, vary greatly in size, ranging from individual all the way up to large, communal expanses. Freestanding lounges and sixteen statement gliders round out the custom furnishings.

Large-scale gliders like these were a first for Studio 431 and some of the more complex products the custom group has engineered and manufactured. “We were challenged to come up with a glider that had a smooth and pleasant motion, a completely concealed mechanism, and was able to withstand a lot of use over time,” says Studio 431 Technical Project Engineer Jim Hargrove. “Interactive CAD models helped us track the motion to make sure it was straight and balanced, not rocking,” he describes. Adding to the technical difficulty was the gliders’ impressive size—each measures 12′ high, 10’ wide from pole to pole, 8′ deep from front to back, and a substantial 600 pounds.

“The furniture on the pier level needed to withstand hurricanes, flooding, and not float away,” says Stephen Andenmatten, senior associate with SHoP Architects. “At the same time, we liked the idea of movable furniture. The gliders are stationary but have a kinetic motion. They invite human activity. We wanted to create something playful. That’s the spirit and motivation behind the gliders.”

The material palette used on the pier and furniture is part of the East River Development’s master plan, which SHoP Architects has been involved in. The benches and gliders are made of untreated jatoba, a dense Brazilian hardwood, with galvanized steel frames. Bright yellow pops of color on the ends of the furnishings add contrast to the consistency of the long wood runs, catching the eyes of people approaching the destination.

Since its opening in June 2018, the Pier 17 has come to life with people working, relaxing, dining, attending concerts at the roof performance space, and ice-staking in the winter. The shaded North Porch, where many of the gliders and benches are located, is the favorite relaxation space for many, with its protected views of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“Studio 431 spoke our language—the designer language—and helped to bridge the gap between what can be constructed and still be true to our design intentions,” says Scot Teti, AIA, Associate Principal at SHoP Architects. “They were conscious of everything we cared about and delivered on it.”

Pier 17

Location: New York, NY, USA

Project Credits:

Design Partners: SHoP Architects, James Corner Field Operations

Custom Manufacturing Team: Landscape Forms’ Studio 431 Custom Division

Photography: ©Kate Wichlinski

Landscape Forms is a proud WLA sponsor.

About Damian Holmes 3343 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at