For the last few months, a small group of designers came together at CO:WORK to participate in the Battery Conservancy’s Americas Design Competition. The project brief asked us to propose “iconic movable seating” that can produced up to 300 times for the Battery Green site in lower Manhattan. This would be a part of the expected 18 million dollar revitalization plan for slated for completion in 2014.
The official design considerations were as follows:
• Movable seats that are suitable for outdoor use and a range of activities
• Stackable seats that can be easily stored and locked
• Seats to be suitable for people of different ages, sizes, and abilities
• Seats that incorporate sustainable practices
• Seats that are friendly to the grass-lawn surface of the Park
• Seats that fit in the Park as a whole
• A Radio Frequency ID tag (RFID security) on each seat
• A discreet place for a donor/sponsor recognition on each seat
• Beautiful, comfortable, and durable seats that are economical to manufacture
• Seats that work well alone or in groups; modular seats are acceptable.
Some of the things we felt were in important considerations in a needs assessment were discussed in early meetings:
• Manhattan population/demographics
• History of the park
• Needs assessment–What do we know about the local population/visitors
• What is the existing site right now/other projected projects?
• What is missing in the park?
We drew some interesting conclusions in our first few meetings in regards to the site context and our historical research of the site.
On Lower-Manhattan: Typical New-Yorkers can tend to be auto-independent. Individuality is highly valued in the dense urban areas of New York. It is an epicenter of world culture, intellectuals and creative pursuits.
Some case studies for development in New York we looked at:
NY High Line
Atlantic Yards Revitalization
Silicon Alley (as a social model)
On the Site History:
Nearby: Staten Island Ferry Docks, the site is framed by a semi-circle of water in the NY Harbour and East River Esplanade, a surrounding walkway and many bike-paths. The other side is the Financial District. The whole park is 25 acres and contains an Urban Farm, Castle Clinton (aka Castle Garden, originally an off-shore island unto itself and the first immigration site in America). The foundation below ground has a lot of archaeological interest, part of the transportation-construction history of the city.
Castle Clinton contains an aquarium, a beer garden, an exhibition center, and theater. It is opposite the Battery Green and the Green is somewhat of a lead up to the castle.
The Statue of Liberty is visible from site.
Who goes to parks?
People with kids, people with animals, young people to hang out, older people to stroll, performers, musicians, athletes, cyclists, people seeking refuge from the city, pedestrians, tourists.
What are people seeking?
Quiet space, place to socialize, place to relax with a book, recreation, picnics, dog-walking, sunshine, fresh air, nature, kid-friendly environment, art shows. People will seek “better parks” for certain activities ie: sports, live-events, dog-walking, or kid-friendly.
What does a ‘Park’ Usually consist of?
Unique landscapes, water, bridges, man-made landscapes–flowerbeds, composition–different levels/heights, subtle changes, views, perspectives, transient spaces, green space, wildlife; birds, seagulls, pigeons, rodents, trees, grass, ponds, pathways, dock-side settings, waste bins, benches/seating.
Based on these meetings, we began sketching and ideating and identified key points of interest and inspiration.
Our breakthrough ‘aha moment’ occurred when we decided on using the Oyster as
our primary concept. The history it had played in the waterways of the New York Harbor we found as a source of inspiration and history surrounding the site.
The form of an Oyster bed as well as the oyster’s biological processes became a study for our ultimate concept.
We moved into form and development and remained there for some time as we produced prototypes that went through many iterations. We used basic 3D modelling programs to do quick modelling and concentrated on the form as being sculptural and able to be arranged in various interesting manners on the green.
We sought a way to show the shell form as iconic and movable without redundancy or being too light. Some of the factors we considered were security and durability. In the wake of Sandy, we considered resilience to all-weather conditions as well.
Our Statement of Intent
The New York Harbor shoreline has changed and grown with the ebb and flow of Manhattan. It has formed the foundation of the streets, bound together buildings, fortified a city, fed its inhabitants, and is once again breathing new life into its waterways. Expanding out, it eventually absorbed the beloved Castle Clinton into the city limits and sprung from it the new Battery Park.
The revitalization of Battery Park can be considered an homage to one of its oldest and newest inhabitants – the oyster.
As a staple in the diet of the native Lenape and the newly arrived Dutch, the oyster also quickly became the most democratic food due to its abundance. Consumption was so rampant that
discarded shells were eventually incorporated into the building of the city. Their ability to renew the waters that sustained it made it an invaluable but often exploited resource. Then the eventual pollution of the New York waters that rendered them too dangerous to eat any longer is now part of the driving force that is bringing them back.
Seeking more ecologically focused ways to revitalize the water, the oyster has been given a new life in New York. Oysters represent the new beginnings that had once come through Ellis Island. The fresh starts and life upheavals that continue to influence the landscape of New York. And the many new stories that are nurtured off the back of New York’s history.
We propose a seat that honors the oyster’s strong and resilient form. The curved form takes its proportions from a section of a whole shell. It allows for an arrangement of chairs to form a full circular bench but encourages park goers to delve into their playful side as they design their own arrangements.
Made of injection molded plastic, it would not be affected by weather and could become a bright and colorful feature of the park.
To view our full process and project proposal, go here.