Pier 17 is part of the Seaport District; one of New York City’s oldest neighbourhoods seated along the East River in lower Manhattan. Built in the 19th Century as a bustling hub of industry for sailing ships to dock in, it rapidly fell into decline following the popularisation of steam ships, which could not dock due to the riverbed conditions. Since the 1960s several attempts have been made to reinvigorate the area with mixed success, including opening of the Pier 17 mall in 1980.
The latest redevelopment project by the Howard Hughes Corporation, however, has had massive success already – transforming Pier 17 into a hugely trendy and popular must-visit New York destination shortly after opening. The company worked with SHoP Architects to create a new Pier 17: a 300,000-sq ft, four-storey, glass-clad building, containing restaurants, bars, fashion and art exhibits, as well as a 17,000-sq ft ESPN TV studio, and a flexible space on the 1.5-acre rooftop with spectacular views for use by the public and for special events.
“Historically, South Street served as an urban node within the city,” says Carlos Garcia, senior designer with lighting design company L’Observatoire International, responsible for lighting Pier 17’s façade, roof, and public interior and exterior spaces. “Our goal was that at night the floating glass box, glowing softly, would be seen as a new kind of beacon or lighthouse on the Manhattan waterfront.”
More than 3,500 linear ft of RGBW LED Lumenpulse fixtures were integrated into the 54 glass bays wrapping the façade. The fixtures were cleverly concealed within the top and bottom of three columns located within each bay, and set at narrow angles, to create an ambient colour wash across the glass with no visible source. Each bay has eight zones, to allow for truly customisable lighting displays and animations.
A 30 universe Pharos LPC X and TPC are used for expert DMX control, with the TPC offering easy manual overrides at the touch of a button. The dynamic façade lighting is programmed through Designer 2 to follow the lunar cycle. On an average day the lighting is subtle and shifts slowly, with warmer yellow light fading to blue, from east to west, as the sun rises and sets. Whenever it’s a full moon, the lighting goes to bright white, to reflect the natural lighting beacon in the sky. Additional lighting sequences are scheduled for special events, holidays and social initiatives throughout the year. The Pharos system is also very flexible, with local control zones for easy customisation of different areas.
Pier 17 is now a glowing jewel of a building, visible from across the East river, and will hopefully continue to bring visitors to enjoy this historic part of New York city for many more years to come.
Photos: C. Taylor Crothers