A preview of the sturgeon coming to Pier 26

I was lucky in two ways to get to go to Copenhagen this spring, and then to be invited to inspect the giant sturgeon being constructed for Hudson River Park in Denmark. I knew the fish were coming, and I had seen all the renderings, but that did not prepare me at all for the size, invention and beauty going on here. These sturgeon are spectacular, and when installed are bound to be a big hit in the neighborhood and beyond. I saw them just as they were finishing the woodwork in March; they were then scheduled to be painted, disassembled and shipped here in containers.

The structures were designed by the playground design company Monstrum, which was founded 20 years ago by Ole Barslund Nielsen, a set designer who was tasked with building a play structure for his son’s kindergarten. It was such a hit that he turned to playground design full time and now the company has a staff of 75 craftsmen, architects and designers with installations all over the world. The pipe fish in the playground at Chelsea Waterside Park is theirs; when I was at the factory, they were finishing up a monumental play rocket complete with capsule and parachute for the space center in Houston.

Our sturgeon were created by senior designer Tomas Knudsen, who is Danish but received his graduate education at FIT and lived here in the city for 12 years before returning to Denmark. That’s him in front of the larger fish’s cross section (that’s my son at the top of the tail, making a fishy motion). The bigger fish will lie on the ground and be completely climbable for much of the outside and certainly the inside. It is wheelchair accessible at the entrance, and then toe holds and ropes allow kids to climb up to the nose for a slide or to the tail for a view.

The smaller sturgeon is on stilts and can also be crawled through. The construction on both is remarkable: rich colors, clever joinery, lots of nooks and crannies for play — plus light streams through the slats creating a laser show on the inside that is magical.

These guys will be the focus of the 4,000-square-foot marine-science playground, the funding for which came from a $3.5 million capital campaign completed by Hudson River Park Friends in 2021, anchored by a $1.3 million challenge match from Tribecan Mike Novogratz. The estuarium that will be sited right next door is under design right now by Tribeca architects Sage & Coombe.



  1. Very cool for sure, but I have a strong feeling that these are going to be a magnet for homeless people to sleep in and, uhh, utilize for various activities. I really hope HRP has a plan and the resources to keep these safe and clean for the children.

  2. Really wished the pier was more for everyone vs. for those w kids. There really isn’t much green space to lay out like other west side piers. Seems to be more a play ground now

    • It’s a slip of a thing and will be lovely. We were all children once. It will be nice to hear the sounds of children playing. It will be even nicer to see children come from all over the city to walk and wander around the area; after all we all paid for it!

  3. This space should have been made into tennis courts.

    • Absolutely not! Hot concrete! You commented before. It would have been such an eyesore: cages, blank, empty and steaming. Closed because of weather a third of the year. You have a roadway of tennis courts. Up and down the Hudson.
      I appreciate the skill of our danish brethren but I am compelled to ask? Why wasn’t the work down in the US by American workers? And don’t say timber because our neighbors up north could have helped with that.