Pier 26 Science Playground by +

2024 Public Projects / USA / Built in 2024 /

Located in the Hudson River Park near the Tribeca neighborhood, Pier 26 reaches out and over the Hudson River with striking views. The most fantastic and last section to be completed is on the upland edge of Pier 26, which opened in early 2024. The entire pier area has undergone a huge transformation, led by design firm OLIN. In order to provide a playful extension to the future science center planned to open here and to make the area even more inclusive and attractive to young families, Hudson River Park wanted to create an interactive play experience

The marine science-themed playground holds two larger-than-life interactive sturgeon fish, one the Atlantic sturgeon and the other a shortnose sturgeon, where children can climb inside, up and over the nearly 80-foot-long wooden play structure to explore. The innovative play space is where the aquatic Hudson River habitat will inspire children both as an extraordinary playscape but also as an educational opportunity.

The Sturgeon Playground offers visitors—young and old—an opportunity to interact with and learn about the Atlantic and shortnose sturgeons, endangered fish that are symbols of the Hudson River Estuary. Here you can see how the fish live in their habitat, you can climb the net waves, slide from the largest sturgeon’s tail or even crawl through its digestive system, as it searches the sandy river bottom for food.

Four essential learning opportunities have been designed into the science play area: (1) reading, (2) visual, (3) kinesthetic, and (4) auditory. These learning experiences are found in a diversity of spaces that represent both the habitat and the anatomy of the sturgeons, including the sedimentary play surface, sedimentary seat walls, crustacean climbers, feeding plume, eelgrass meadows, eelgrass tower, roe, scales, scutes, gills, fins, barbels, mouth, eyes, heart and lungs, throat, esophagus, stomach, swim bladder, and digestive tract. Various programming spaces include passive and active opportunities for children to learn and play in this iconic and immersive environment. Children can read fun facts about the endangered fish that are carved into the wooden structure before venturing inside and traveling through the fish’ anatomy exploring all the vital organs as they go. The aspect of risk assessment and risk-taking also plays a central role in the educational opportunities offered at this playground. Children are learning as they test their limits and have an opportunity to physically explore and feel that rush as they climb higher than they thought they dared!

The playground is designed to be an inclusive feature in the community. This means that it provides access for as many ages and abilities as possible, providing an inclusive, approachable gathering place on the riverfront. The iconic play structures capture the attention of passersby, becoming landmarks in the surroundings and providing a thrilling sensory experience for both young and old. The largest fish structure is designed with low entrances, which – along with the choice of rubber flooring – enables wheelchair users to roll in and explore much of the structure. There are also transfer platforms, ramps and accessible steps integrated throughout the design of the playground to provide play opportunities for as many kids as possible. Sensory devices such as a shrimp mist feature and other aesthetic details provide strong sensory experiences for multiple abilities.

OLIN and MONSTRUM Playgrounds joined forces to create a playground design that would spark the imagination, and become a valuable resource for learning and play for NYC families. It will also serve as the outdoor extension of the environmental programming at the ecology-focused Pier 26 and the future Hudson River Park Estuarium.

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: MONSTRUM Playgrounds & OLIN
Architecture offices involved in the design: MONSTRUM Playgrounds & OLIN

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Location: Hudson River Park’s Pier 26, 231 West St, New York, NY 10013, United States

Design year: 2021

Year Completed: 2024


LILA 2024 Sponsor