Washington Square Park House New York, New York, USA | 2014
Architects: George Schieferdecker, BKSK Architects
Landscape Architects: New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
Client: NYC Department of Parks and Recreation with NYC Department of Design and Construction
The 3,100-square-foot Washington Square Park House is a deceptively modest LEED Platinum certified building nestled in one of New York’s most vibrant public spaces. It houses substantial program: NYC Department of Parks and Recreation offices, public ADA-compliant restrooms, and park maintenance facilities. Although an important addition to the park, one of the project’s most valuable attributes is its inconspicuousness. In numerous ways, the structure treads lightly. By honoring the history of the place, the tradition of park architecture, and the natural environment, the design of the park house enhances visitors’ connection with the park itself, allowing and encouraging park visitors and employees alike to engage in a variety of outdoor physical activities by providing high-end amenities, comfort and security to this active, centralized urban park.
The building was designed to have a small footprint, both architecturally and environmentally. Its systems include a solar panel array and ground-source heat pumps that eliminate visual distraction and noise pollution from equipment for park users. The reuse of an existing cellar that houses mechanical equipment for the park’s fountain allowed for minimal disruption of the park’s archeologically sensitive grounds. Other contributors to low environmental impact, as well as increased workplace comfort for Parks Department employees, include the use of low or zero-VOC paints, adhesives, coatings, sealers, and sealants throughout the project, as well as large windows providing ample natural light, passive cooling, and outdoor views. Perimeter seating wraps the exterior, and a covered colonnade provides comfortable shade along an active pathway that is well-lit in the evenings.
Reducing visual distractions, in addition to noise and nonrenewable energy usage, was also central to the project’s goal of treading lightly. The building’s subtle curvature and tapered ends minimize its mass, while several regionally sourced materials reflect the park’s natural palette. The colonnaded trellis form, an archetype of garden architecture, is topped with redwood reclaimed from New York City water tower tanks and pickle barrels, while the project’s granite was sourced from the New York Champlain Valley. By honoring the natural environment, the tradition of park architecture, and the civic legacy of Washington Square, the design of the park house is able to intrude as minimally as possible on visitors’ connection with the park itself.