This $18 million playground doubles as an unusual barrier against risk

Located on the southern tip of Manhattan, Battery Park City is particularly vulnerable to flooding. In 2012, the low-lying area was crushed by Hurricane Sandy, flooding local tunnels, basements and surrounding areas. construction site at ground zero, But now, the area is protected by a growing network of sea walls, flip-up gates that can be deployed for hurricanes – and a playground.

[Photo: courtesy BKSK]

At first glance, the $18 million Battery Playscape looks like a regular, though expensive, playground with a contemporary tree house, granite slide, and a climbing wall. But the 1.5-acre playground also doubles as a resilient park and a line of defense against rising sea levels. Here, attractions include a biosvale that snakes down a series of wooden bridges and collects stormwater, a four-ton boulder towering over New York City, and an 18-foot bluff that follows a series of slides. Keeps and serves as an informal flood wall.

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[Photo: courtesy BKSK]

The playground sits atop three subway lines and comes with an underground tank that can hold 30,000 gallons of water. It is a complex project requiring massive amounts of cash from various entities such as the MTA and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. But at its core, it promotes a simple idea: Resilient landscapes should sound hard, but they can also look like fun.

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[Photo: courtesy BKSK]

The playscape was designed by local firms BKSK Architects and Star Whitehouse. It has five distinct areas, each designed around a native landscape typology from the Hudson River Valley. For example, both rivers flowing toward Manhattan inspired “riverbeds,” which are sprays of water that flow into a basin of sand reminiscent of a tidal pool. (Kids can also dig for a 4-foot octopus hiding under the surface.)

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[Photo: courtesy BKSK]

Meanwhile, the city’s coastline and beaches shape the “dune” – a geometric climbing structure that rises above the ground like a wind-swept mound and doubles as stadium seating for live puppet shows . The structure is constructed from glass-reinforced concrete, chosen by the architects for its durability. “We know this site will refill, so part of it is managing water, and part of it is protecting resources,” says Joan Krevlin, a partner at BKSK.

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[Photo: courtesy BKSK]

Typically, resilient landscapes such as sponge parks and rain gardens rely on permeable surfaces that collect rainwater and allow it to soak into the ground. But the Battery Playscape sits so close to the river that the water level can be very high, so the architects couldn’t create a very porous surface. Instead, they chose a few planted surfaces and a bioswale, a type of trench that acts like a creek but looks like a vegetative canal. “It’s better to channel the water to specific areas and capture it more deliberately,” says Laura Starr, Founding Partner of Star Whitehouse.

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[Photo: courtesy BKSK]

In the process, the architects created one of many educational tools for children. In riverbeds, for example, runoff seeps through sand and into bioswales. Children can trace the flow of water until it disappears into the detention tank below, where the water can be stored for 24 hours before being slowly released into the city’s sewer system.

Small plaques describe the intention behind every playground feature, but Krevlin believes kids will intuitively understand it. “The kids enjoy playing wherever they go, but there was an opportunity to do something that really connected,” she says. [them] For the history and context of nature, natural forces, and batteries.”

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