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Six Teams Named Finalists in the Public Plaza Design Competition for 55 Water Street in Downtown Manhattan

by ArchNewsNow
July 26, 2002

Yesterday, the Municipal Art Society and the New Water Street Corporation announced the six finalists in the design competition for the elevated public plaza at 55 Water Street in lower Manhattan. The finalists are: Architecture Research Office LLP of New York; William McDonough + Partners and VMDO Landscape Studio of Charlottesville, VA; Weisz and Yoes, Judith Heinz, Michael Singer, and the Sam Schwartz Company of New York; Elyn Zimmerman, and Gensler of New York and Cheryl Barton of San Francisco; Rogers Marvel Architects and Ken Smith Landscape Architect of New York; and Chan Krieger & Associates and Carol R. Johnson Associates of Cambridge, MA.


The six teams will receive a $10,000 stipend to develop designs for the plaza by September 13, 2002. The winning design, to be announced the week of September 23rd, will be finalized and implemented by the New Water Street Corporation in the spring of 2003. The proposals of all six finalists will be displayed at the Municipal Art Society’s Urban Center October 21 - November 29, 2002.


Over 75 architects, landscape architects, urban designers, and public artists from across the US and from several foreign countries submitted qualifications for the competition. The sponsoring organizations chose the finalists based on their vision for the elevated plaza, their record of design excellence, and their expertise with public open space challenges comparable to the plaza at 55 Water Street.


The jury included: Kent Barwick, President, Municipal Art Society of New York; Harry A. Bridgwood, Executive Vice President, New Water Street Corporation; Ken Greenberg, Greenberg Consultants LLP; Hugh Hardy, FAIA, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates; Mary Margaret Jones, ASLA, Principal-in-Charge, Hargreaves Associates; Edward J. Kulik, Senior Vice President, New Water Street Corporation; and Mary Ann Tighe, President and CEO, New York Tri-State Region, CB Richard Ellis.


The elevated plaza at 55 Water, approximately an acre in size, is nearly invisible from street level and primarily reached by a set of escalators from Water Street. The proportions and panoramic views of New York Harbor, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Governor’s Island, ensure the possibility of a grand public space, but the current lack of visibility, accessibility, and amenities present challenges to expanding its use.


55 Water Street has been an important fixture of Manhattan’s Financial District and the East River waterfront for 30. Designed by Emery Roth & Sons with Rob Peterson and Fox, Architects and opened in 1972, it is the largest privately owned office building in New York City. A $150 million renovation program undertaken by the New Water Street Corporation in the 1990s has made 55 Water a Class A real estate property and attracted several important financial services companies as tenants. The Vietnam Veteran’s Plaza on the building’s south side was also recently refurbished and rededicated in November 2001, and is a vibrant public open space included on New York City’s Sites to See List. The New Water Street Corporation is now turning its attention to renovating the Upper Plaza.


The Municipal Art Society is a private, non-profit membership organization whose mission is to promote a more livable city. Since 1893, the Society has worked to enrich the culture, neighborhoods, and physical design of New York City. The MAS advocates for excellence in urban planning, contemporary architecture, historic preservation, and public art. The 55 Water Street Design Competition is a program of the Society’s Advocates for Privately Owned Public Space, a new entity that will monitor, encourage improvements to, and promote use of the city’s 503 plazas, arcades, and indoor spaces created by incentive zoning.


The New Water Street Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Retirement Systems of Alabama and has owned 55 Water Street since 1993. It has spent in excess of $150 million on recent upgrades and renovations, making 55 Water one of the most prestigious and technologically advanced buildings of Lower Manhattan.

(click on pictures to enlarge)

(Dwight Primiano)
The elevated public plaza at 55 Water Street

© 2002