UNStudio, the Amsterdam-based architecture firm headed by Ben van Berkel, is embarking on its second project in New York City.
In late January, the Battery Conservancy announced that the firm will design a new public square and pavilion for Battery Park, located in the southern tip of Manhattan. Named the New Amsterdam Plein & Pavilion, the project is scheduled to be completed this fall.
During a recent interview, van Berkel described the recent announcement as “special news” given the state of the economy. “In this time, when everything is so difficult and so heavy, this was good news and a gift,” he says. “Every architect at the moment knows that things are not so easy.” He noted that his other New York City project, the Five Franklin Place condo tower in Tribeca, “is not on hold, but it is moving super slow.”
The Battery project is meant to stand as a symbol of the longtime relationship between New York and The Netherlands. It is being funded by the Dutch government as part of NYC 400, a yearlong celebration to commemorate the anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in the New York Harbor in 1609. While Hudson was an Englishman, he was working for the Dutch East India Company at the time. He paved the way for Dutch settlers, who came to Manhattan in the 1620s and dubbed the island New Amsterdam.
Berkel says he envisioned the 5,000-square-foot pavilion as a bloom that “flowers out to orient itself to all the different corners of the site.” The structure will serve as an information center and food kiosk, and will be equipped with LED lights that change color throughout the evening. The surrounding plaza will feature UNStudio-designed benches and tables.
The site, Berkel adds, is “a crossing point where people come together.” The pavilion will be located near busy streets and subway stations, and in front of the Staten Island Ferry terminal. According to the conservancy, some two million tourists traverse the site each year, and roughly 70,000 commuters pass through each day.
With financing in place for the project, van Berkel says the only problem now is figuring out how to build it in time. “It needs to be finished this September,” he says. “Can you believe it? I don’t know how we’re going to do it.”