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East River Esplanade

[Maria Lokke, The New Yorker]

The New Yorker’s architecture critic Paul Goldberger posted a note yesterday on the East River Waterfront Esplanade in lower Manhattan. Accompanying it are five enticing photos by Maria Lokke. You should take a look, for the photos if nothing more.

The esplanade is still under construction, but a two-block section was just completed, prompting Goldberger’s post. Contrasting it with the waterfront promenade at Battery Park City, along the Hudson, Goldberger explains:

The Battery Park City esplanade was about making you zone out as you look at the water, and forget you are in the city.

The East River Waterfront Esplanade is the opposite: it’s all about New York. It faces the intensely active East River, and it is tucked under and beside the elevated structure of the F.D.R. Drive. It couldn’t be bucolic if it tried. The architects were smart enough not to try, and to realize that they had to work with the reality of what was there, since the highway wasn’t going to go away. And the vista was always going to be of ferries and bridges and Brooklyn, not of a wide expanse of water leading to the Statue of Liberty.

As for what you see in the photo, the “seating is arranged in every which kind of way: pairs of benches facing each other, benches and individual seats facing the water, benches facing the city. There are chaises, like at the High Line, and several pairs of high seats, like bar stools, set at a height that allows you to see the river without having your gaze interrupted by any railings.”

I love the high seating. Perhaps we can try it out for ourselves in just a few weeks, when we attend the wedding of my cousin’s daughter just a block away.

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Categories: Architecture
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