Plans for the Pier 26 estuarium fill out the last piece of the park

The Hudson River Park Trust presented its latest plans for the estuarium — the building that will study and educate about the Hudson River estuary — and they are both exciting and beautiful. Once again, I am reminded how lucky we are to have this park at our doorstep. The building, which is planned for the upland space between Pier 25 and 26, is not yet funded — the Trust has about $20 million committed for what is estimated to be a $35 million project. But they moved forward with design plans to 1) attract more funding and 2) get a firmer sense of cost.

It happens that the estuary here is a habitat of national value in terms of the wildlife — a unique urban natural environment with surprising creatures moving through it.

The design was a collaboration between Tribeca architects Sage & Coombe and the aquarium designers EHDD out of California. Local landscape architect Signe Nielsen of MNLA did the landscape work around the building. And it’s all gorgeous — handsome yet modest and designed to fit into the park. The 7000-square-foot, one-story building will include:

  • flexible exhibit space with tanks and touch tanks
  • classroom space
  • microlab for scientific work
  • an entry porch with a deep roof overhang that will double as classroom space

The building facade material will be slats of acetylated wood that will allow light to come through but also provide shade; the mechanicals on the roof will be shrouded in channel glass. There will likely be a planted green roof, giving the building a shaggy profile. As CB1 member Alice Blank said, it’s a little gem. Paul Goldstein called the design “thought provoking and stimulating,” and it will bring people into the park just to see it.

The actual working parts of the building will be intended to be scrappy and MacGyver-like — as the current WetLab at Pier 40 is now, but about double the size. The tanks will be filled with Hudson River water pumped into a flow-through water system from the piers for both seasonal and year-round tanks for species. And of course the building is designed to withstand a major flood.

The estuarium, when built, will be the new home for the park’s River Project and WetLab programs, which currently serve thousands of school children every year from all over the city. It will also be a place where parkgoers can stop by regularly to check out the exhibits and the creatures.

The design team will take the process through a refined cost estimate but step short of construction drawings until the budget is met. Here’s hoping.



  1. Incredible project!

    And to think that thousands of neighborhood/city children would be able to access such an educational gem of a public facility for less than the price of an oversized condo a block to the east in north Tribeca.

    For those in our (very well off) neighborhood that want to donate to the organization raising funds for this (and other riverside) projects:

  2. Anything in the pipeline for adults to enjoy?

    • It is a center for the study of the estuary. It is not for kids any more than any science center is, though of course most education programs run out of there will be for children, since they go to school!

    • If you visit the existing pier 40 River Project, you will see that it is as fascinating for adults as it is for children. I am so happy this project is moving forward.