Photos by Michael Moran.
In 1936, New York City experienced its record high of 106 degrees. The same summer, 11 pools opened across the city’s five boroughs, grand public spaces incorporating advanced filtration technology and forward-looking design sensibilities. Financed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, 80 years later these pools remain extremely popular: In 2012, 130,000 people swam in uptown Manhattan’s Highbridge pool alone. And, like any well-loved grand dame, Highbridge could use a facelift.
Enter the Parsons Design Workshop, an innovative design studio led by graduate architecture students at the School of Constructed Environments. Through a partnership with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, Parsons students are bringing Highbridge pool into the twenty-first century: Construction on the pool pavilion, Splash House, is complete, and the second phase of the make-over, converting the vestibule in a project called In_Flux, is underway. “From the master planning process, to the design phase, and through construction, the students have worked diligently to meet the community’s needs,” says Parks and Recreation Commissioner Veronica White.
Splash House is a space-efficient, lightweight, and porous structure, providing naturally lit and ventilated changing and locker areas. This new space means the recreation center, which previously closed in the summer months to allow pool goers to use its facilities, can remain open year round. Parks and Recreation plans to install a water curtain to double as a play feature for children and a way to rinse off before swimming.
By converting Highbridge’s open-air vestibule into an enclosed entry and common space, In_Flux will create an additional 2,000 square feet of space where neighborhood residents can meet in an informal setting. The design is intended to enhance the historic design of the original 1932 space, and the removal of a 1982 addition of a turret will provide a unified entry to the recreation center and pool.
“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 and Recreation represents an important step in furthering the work of this studio, and creating work that improves the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.”