In 2016, the newly formed Rockland Pride Center purchased an historic storefront building. The corner building, typical of Nyack's commercial district, had been previously expanded for use as a social club. The unoccupied building requires extensive renovation and addition of infrastructure to accommodate new programming.
The rendering to the left illustrates the possibilities of transformative design on a limited budget. The building in its existing condition is shown below.
Location: Piermont, NY
Status: Design Development
Rockland Road Bridge spans Sparkill Creek just east of a small waterfall at the head of Sparkill Pond. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the bridge provides picturesque views of the creek and neighboring historic district. Upon restoration of the bridge several years ago, the roadway was modified to provide room for a tiny "pocket park."
WaCa's design for the park features local stone -- celebrating the "rock" in "Rockland." Neighbors are contributing rocks from their properties: granite boulders, split rocks for walls, and unique local red sandstone. These stones will be supplemented by stone steps and gravel from quarries in Rockland County. A new fence along the creek will be fabricated from the existing car guardrail.
Vegetation, stone walls and large stone blocks will provide separation from the busy adjacent road, inviting passers-by to linger and enjoy the view.
Rockland Road Bridge Park project will demonstrate a radically eco-friendly construction methodology while improving an underutilized municipal site at the center of a historic district in Piermont, NY.
The biggest challenge in mitigating human-induced climate change is how to reduce the carbon footprint of construction materials. Our built environment -- buildings and infrastructure -- accounts for the majority of energy consumption and resulting carbon emissions contributing to global warming. Historically, half of this carbon footprint is "operating energy" of buildings, and much progress has been made to address this: energy-efficient appliances, fixtures and building systems, energy-saving enclosures, solar strategies, etc. There has been less progress in addressing the other half -- the embodied energy in the construction materials themselves. Indeed, the production of cement -- the most widely used building material -- itself accounts for up to 7% of global carbon emissions. While a few architects and designers are addressing this, such as experiments with wood structure in skyscrapers, much more work is required.
The Village of Piermont, in New York's lower Hudson Valley, recognizes the harmful effects of global warming, most recently suffering from Hurricane Sandy which flooded its business district and 150 homes, causing over $20 million of damage. The Village is developing comprehensive strategies to make itself more resilient and is considered a leader in preparing for climate change -- see https://patch.com/new-york/nyack/piermont-taking-steps-waterfront-resilience for more information.
Potential solutions involve infrastructure improvements and new construction. Conventional approaches to construction in pursuing resiliency would generate carbon emissions which only exacerbate the situation we are struggling against.
The new park at Rockland Road Bridge, in the center of the historic district in Piermont, will demonstrate the possibilities of a radically different approach to construction which minimizes the carbon footprint of construction materials and methods. Three strategies will be employed to accomplish this: (1) Going Local, (2) Reusing Existing Materials, and (3) Avoiding Carbon-Heavy Materials.
Going Local sources materials close to the site. This minimizes energy used in transporting construction materials. In addition, the embodied energy used to manufacture or process each material under consideration can be more easily understood, as manufacturing sources are easily accessible for study. The project will be built primarily from local stone sourced from Rockland County. Nearby residents will contribute stones from their properties and stone from local quarries will be utilized, highlighting the variety and beauty of local stone.
Reusing Existing Materials minimizes the embodied energy for processing construction inputs by using materials that have already been manufactured. For example, reusing salvaged stone blocks from demolished building sites saves energy of extracting and cutting this material. This has the added benefit of diverting bulky demolition materials from our landfills.
Avoiding Carbon-Heavy Materials forces designers to question conventional construction techniques and find other ways of accomplishing performance requirements such as structural integrity and durability. For example, this project will substitute dry-laid masonry for conventional reinforced concrete foundation and wall construction.
The new park will serve not only as a municipal improvement -- providing a spot for pedestrians and bikers to better view the historic bridge and Sparkill Creek waterfall -- but as proof that we can improve our surroundings with minimal environmental impact.
The brief called for a Water Taxi stand on the bank of the East River in Queens, NY that doubles as an emergency response facility.
Our Water Taxi Stand used the letters "T-A-X-I" for structure, signage and storage of emergency equipment. Openings under the letters provide entrances and exits, while ETFE cushions shelter from wind and rain.
The structure is fixed in place but floats with the changing tides and rising floodwaters. Piles driven into the river bottom which allow for vertical movement are hidden by the shafts of the letters "T" and "I".
Edward Hopper House Museum
Collaborators: De la Torre Design
Walter was asked, along with Ernest De la Torre, to recreate the furnishings in Edward Hopper's bedroom as it would have been in his formative years. Located on the second floor of the Hopper House art center, the room had been used as a "white box" gallery but retained the original mantel, doors and flooring.
A period bed, likely Hopper's own, was found disassembled in the attic and Hopper's original easel was located. Taking hints from an oil painting he made of a vignette in his bedroom, his self-portrait was reprinted to fit a period frame, walls were painted ochre, and furniture and accessories were placed to recreate the scene in the painting. A period fireplace insert, rug, furnishings and art supplies were sourced locally to complete the reimagined room.
The project was originally intended as a temporary installation, but due to popular demand will remain indefinitely.