Views of the Water

ARCHITECTS
Architecture Research Office
www.aro.net

PROJECT
Scenic Hudson River Center and Pavilion Long Dock Park
www.scenichudson.org

Beacon, New York

In Long Dock Park in Beacon, New York, Architecture Research Office (ARO) has designed two new buildings, situated less than a hundred yards apart, with dramatically different personalities. One, at the edge of the Hudson River, is an ethereal, low-slung kayak pavilion that’s semitransparent, thanks to partitions made from anodized aluminum grating; the other is a renovated, gable-roofed barn from the middle of the nineteenth century. “There is a counterpoint between the two projects,” says Adam Yarinsky, one of ARO’s three principals. “One is about a delicate transition at the water’s edge, and the other is about working with the iconic form of this sort of object.”

The two buildings, which are on track to receive LEED Gold certification, are the finishing touches of a new 16-acre park that was opened last July by Scenic Hudson, a nonprofit environmental organization that seeks to protect and restore the Hudson River and its surrounding landscape. Long Dock Park, situated on a man-made peninsula, gets its name from its original purpose: linking trains and ferries to commercial buildings and warehouses. The landscape architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand wanted to revive the relationship between land and river through their master plan for the new park, and ARO’s structures are an important part of that endeavor.

ARO designed the pavilion to be svelte, in order to provide direct access to the river with as little visual interruption as possible. “We thought about it as a kind of threshold to the water—one that would allow a view through it,” Yarinsky says. “The openness and lightness of the structure came from that desire to allow for a continuity between land and water.” The resulting 2,700-square-foot building features slender columns that support a thin roof of corrugated steel. Beneath the pavilion, on wooden decking that slopes down to the water, sit four compartments that can store a total of 64 kayaks and canoes (including both rental and privately owned boats), a secondary storage space, and a changing room.

The red barn, which originally housed a business that sold paint and insecticide, has been turned into Scenic Hudson’s River Center, an arts and environmental education venue. Inside, ARO exposed the existing post-and-beam structure; added tough, hard-wearing finishes like plywood wall panels and concrete floors; and installed sliding panels clad in Homasote fiberboard, which allow the various spaces to be reconfigured and provide surfaces for pinning up art. The upper floors of the barn house two classrooms and an artist’s studio. The ground floor, which serves as an assembly and exhibition venue, features a wall of glass doors that opens the building up, again providing a visual connection to the river.

Mill Street Loft, a nonprofit that runs art-based education, health, and cultural-enrichment programs, currently holds the lease on the River Center. “Our philosophy is ‘building self-esteem while learning through the arts,’ ” says the organization’s executive director, Carole J. Wolf, who has researched the area’s arts-related needs. “I found that a lot of the local artists were looking for a preschool program, so we created something called BCAP—the Beacon Creative Arts Pre-school,” she says. Other initiatives include a summer art camp for children, an empowerment program for young women, and workshops to help art-scholarship aspirants develop their portfolios for college applications.

And so, with the help of ARO’s buildings and thoughtful programming, Long Dock Park uses the Hudson River and the surrounding landscape as more than just a pretty location—it has its sights set on community enrichment.

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