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Vacant to Vibrant: 55 Water Street Plaza Transformed

The New York-based team of Rogers Marvel Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architect has been chosen as the winner of the competition to redesign the elevated public plaza at 55 Water Street.

The elevated plaza at 55 Water, approximately one acre in size, commands beautiful panoramic views of New York Harbor from the Brooklyn Bridge to Governors Island. However, because it is nearly invisible from street level and its current primary point of access is a dimly lit escalator located off of Water Street, this great asset has gone underutilized. As one of the last stages of a $150 million renovation project of 55 Water Street, the New Water Street Corporation will implement the redesign of the elevated plaza in the spring of 2003, transforming it into a truly grand public space.

Inspired by the waterfront topography of the regional landscape, the winning design creates a series of dune-like spaces along a slope that rises as it approaches a terrace overlooking the water. The new sloped site will be planted with a diverse selection of native species that provide year-round interest. Areas of respite and recreation space will be created to bring the park down to the street and the street up to the park. A new multi-story angular beacon will anchor the northeast corner and serve as a welcoming lantern visible from the East River piers and the Brooklyn Promenade. The glowing structure will provide an additional park entrance via a large capacity elevator. An event space to the west of the beacon will accommodate year-round programming such as ice-skating, film screenings and evening parties.

In July of 2002, the jury selected six finalists — Architecture Research Office LLP of New York; William McDonough + Partners and VMDO Landscape Studio of Charlottesville, VA; Weisz and Yoes, Judith Heinz, Michael Singer, and the Sam Schwartz Company of New York; Elyn Zimmerman and Gensler of New York and Cheryl Barton of San Francisco; Rogers Marvel Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architect of New York; and Chan Krieger & Associates and Carol R. Johnson Associates of Cambridge, MA. The finalists were selected from over 75 submissions from architects, landscape architects, urban designers and public artists from across the U.S. and several foreign countries.