After decades of decline and disinvestment, New York’s industrial waterfronts are finally being recognized as an opportunity for economic diversification and job growth. At the same time, there is an ever-pressing imperative to maximize public access to the waterfront. Consequently, two uses that have historically been kept apart - manufacturing and public space – need to co-exist seamlessly, presenting a new and pressing challenge for urban design.
NYCEDC commissioned WXY to develop the ‘Sunset Park Activation Plan’ in response to this challenge: a comprehensive and flexible framework to re-position the district as a new type of modern, public-facing manufacturing workplace. Multi-disciplinary strategies including urban design, identity and branding, landscaping, resiliency tactics and wayfinding and signage laid the foundation for new spatial and visual identity, combining the district’s rich industrial legacy with its public-facing future.
The strategies were implemented in the district’s ‘pilot’ public realm project, at Brooklyn Army Terminal: a vibrant, flexible and robust space that weaves through the 97-acre campus, announcing the district’s bold new identity, drawing the public in and providing new places for tenants.
By reorganizing campus circulation, 100K SF of new, dedicated pedestrian space was created. This previously vehicle-dominated area was reimagined as an ensemble of connected, programmed open spaces, working in sequence to create a varied pedestrian experience, flexible for many uses.
These different open spaces—plazas, parking areas, building entrances—come together to form the new heart of the campus’ exterior space, connecting the neighborhood to the waterfront.
Throughout the new public realm, landscaping, lighting, furniture, environmental graphics, and signage have been deployed to establish a spatial and visual identity that draws from the campus’ industrial legacy as a place of movement, utility and clarity.
Brightly-colored signage and striping codes space for pedestrians, cars and trucks, working in conjunction with a new site-wide graphic identity to help people navigate the 97-acre campus and understand it as part of a larger public workplace district.
New adaptations of traffic calming help establish the campus as a public place: ovoid speed bumps are reinterpreted to separate trucks from pedestrians, lining the edge of the new ‘Annex Plaza’.
A former traffic circle is reclaimed as a series of monumental circular wood tree decks for sitting and lounging near the new ferry stop, anchoring the new waterfront plaza.
Custom-designed furniture interspersed throughout the open space gives tenants and the public places use to eat, relax, take in the magnificent views.
The new public realm enhances the experience and utility of BAT’s exterior spaces, repositioning it as a truly public-facing campus while increasing its efficiency and viability as a thriving manufacturing hub.
The project anchors the campus’ transformation into an engine of 21st century industrial innovation, and signals NYC’s commitment to equitable, inclusive urban growth.