April 22, 2019

Eco-Park and Urban Beach Pier 35 Opens to the Public in Manhattan

Pier 35 at the Lower Manhattan waterfront. Courtesy of SHoP Architects.

As April showers subside in New York City, residents and visitors alike can enjoy a new addition to the waterfront: the SHoP Architects– and Ken Smith Workshop-designed Pier 35, an outdoor public space with the public—and the environment—in mind.

Pier 35 is part of Manhattan’s East River waterfront esplanade project, a two-mile stretch of public-use areas that are denoted by a series of subsequent piers in Lower Manhattan. The piers provide outdoor recreation space, community-oriented programming, and conservation and sustainability measures for the waterfront. 

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Landscaped lawns and dunes sprawl over Pier 35’s accordion-like design. A waterfront-facing porch, complete with swings, gives way to a view of the East River and the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. A 35-foot-tall metal screen plays a dual role of paying homage to the industrial roots of the East River waterfront and also blocks from view the Sanitation Department’s shed on the adjacent pier.

A 35-foot-tall metal screen blocks the nearby Sanitation Department facility from view and evokes the waterfront’s industrial roots. Courtesy of SHoP Architects.

“The challenge at Pier 35 was to make the pier feel expansive in a three-dimensional sense,” says Ken Smith, the landscape architect for the project. “The folded topographies of the vine screen, dune terrain and mussel beach create an expressive space that simultaneously provides a backdrop to the adjacent sanitation building and a dramatic outward orientation to the waterfront and bridges.”

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Thanks to a grant from the New York State Division of Coastal Resources, the pier’s “Mussel Beach” provides eco-restoration by replicating the habitat of the East River’s historic shoreline.

“We created Mussel Beach as an ecological prototype,” explains Cathy Jones, the project’s manager. “The pier’s folded terrain drops down into the river, creating a gradient of sloping planes that interface with the daily rising and falling of the tides. The habitat feature was designed specifically for mussels, with sloping precast concrete surfaces, textures, and rockeries in the tidal zone.”

The nighttime view of Pier 35 from the East River. Courtesy of SHoP Architects.

While parts of the pier were opened to the public in winter of 2018, it opened in its entirety on April 19.

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