Parsons The New School for Design has completed its work on Splash House, a new pool pavilion for the WPA-era Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center in Washington Heights, in partnership with NYC Parks & Recreation.
The project was developed through the Parsons Design Workshop, its innovative design-build studio led by graduate architecture students. This past summer, students commenced on a second phase of the project, the interior renovation of the recreation center, further enhancing the center for area residents.
"Thanks to our partnership with graduate architecture students of the Parsons Design Workshop, a new pool pavilion will meet the needs of pool-goers and allow for year-round recreation inside the center," commented Parks & Recreation Commissioner Veronica White. "From the master planning process, to the design phase, and through construction, the students have worked diligently to meet the community's needs and we are impressed with their professionalism."
The Highbridge Pool and Recreation Center is part of the 120-acre Highbridge Park, which includes the High Bridge, the oldest standing bridge in New York City. As part of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC project, the bridge will be re-opened to the public in 2014 after 40 years of closure, and provide a new greenway between Manhattan and Bronx communities. The center is 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.
"For over a decade, our students and faculty have worked with a range of non-profits to enhance the built environment through the Design Workshop," said Joel Towers, executive dean of Parsons. "Our partnership with Parks represents an important step in furthering the work of this studio, and creating work that improves the lives of thousands of New Yorkers."
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. Previously recreation programs were suspended over the summer and the interior converted to accommodate the space required for the large number of pool-goers, over 130,000 this summer alone.
Splash House reorganizes the current circulation and provides new changing and locker areas. The lightweight and porous structure is naturally lit and ventilated, while remaining sensitive to its historic context. It includes sliding doors, which allow the locker area to be converted into additional changing rooms during peak times. A second component of the project includes the installation of a water curtain which will function as a play feature for children as well as a way to rinse off before entering the pool NYC Parks plans to execute this work as well as the other plumbing and water service infrastructure to support Splash House.
The second phase of the project, called In_Flux, is the renovation of the interior of the central area of the recreation center, which commenced this past summer. The project will convert the 1936 open-air vestibule into an enclosed entry and common space, which will provide an additional 2,000 square feet of space, and also improve its year-round functionality. Central to the design intent is creating a communal space where neighborhood residents can meet in an informal setting, while enhancing the historic design. The removal of a restrictive 1982 addition of a turret at both ground and mezzanine levels will provide a unified entry to the center.