Parsons Collaborates with NYC Parks and Recreation to Improve Historic Pool in Washington Heights

Parsons Collaborates with NYC Parks & Recreation to Improve Historic Pool in Washington Heights

Parsons The New School for Design has joined with NYC Parks & Recreation through the Design Workshop, its innovative design-build studio led by graduate architecture students, to create a new pool pavilion, Splash House, for the Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center, a WPA-era bathhouse in Washington Heights. The project represents the first of a five-year initiative between NYC Parks & Recreation and Parsons Design Workshop to identify and implement improvements in public spaces across the city.

The Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center 01

"We have been impressed by the professionalism and design skills of the talented students at Parsons," said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "From the master planning process through the various design iterations, and now the construction phase on site, they have worked diligently and intelligently to meet the community's needs. We are looking forward to increasing recreational opportunities at the Highbridge Center."

The Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center 02
The Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center 03

The Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center is part of the Highbridge Park and one of 11 city pools built in 1936 through President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration and commissioned by Robert Moses. Today, it is a highly popular pool during the summer months, and also serves the Washington Heights neighborhood as a recreation and community center during the rest of the year.

"Over the past two decades, the Parsons Design Workshop has pioneered the practice of urban design-build in the university context," said Joel Towers, Executive Dean of Parsons The New School for Design. "Through our work with Parks & Recreation, we will tap the expertise accumulated over the course of the program to re-imagine and improve some of the city's most important public spaces."

The Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center 04
The Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center 05

Splash House is an outdoor pavilion that allows the recreation center to remain open year-round and offer more recreational programs to the Washington Heights community. Currently, due to the Center's dual function, recreation programs must be suspended over the summer and the interior is converted to accommodate the space required for the large number of pool-goers. Splash House reorganizes the current circulation and provides new changing and locker areas. Natural systems of light, ventilation and water make a lightweight and efficient porous structure, which remains sensitive to its historic context. It includes sliding doors, which allow the locker area to be converted into additional changing rooms during peak times, and also a water curtain that functions as a play feature for children. In addition to the design and construction of Splash House, the Design Workshop students also created a master plan for the center that outlines future improvements. The pavilion will officially open for the 2012 summer season.