Unusable Space?

What does the city do when it comes across desolate, unprofitable land?

New York City has been conducting research for years regarding Washington Heights Highbridge Park in an effort to reclaim it from the often dangerous and illegal activities that occur there. Highbridge Park spans the waterfront from about 155th to Dykman Street in the upper most portion of Manhattan. This large span of land is known for its challenging extreme topography.

There are a few maps floating around that describe future plans for Highbridge Park.

One of the most recently completed renovations to this land is an extremely successful skatepark. Having opened in 2014, this park has become New York City's largest hidden gem.

View from 181st Street, skatepark, invisible to public, is approximately 60 below street level.

View from 181st Street, skatepark, invisible to public, is approximately 60 below street level.

View from path off of 181st Street.

View from path off of 181st Street.

Viewing platform, from street level to platform, is 40’-0” topographical difference. From platform to the highest point, skatepark is 30’-0”. This park graciously utilizes all aspects that most designers would find challenging. The extreme topography is only a benefit for this type of programmatic use. The use of stairs, ramps, and large clear stretches of concrete allow for speed, and create an unlimited amount of opportunity for exploration. This park thrives on its challenged landscape.

Viewing platform, from street level to platform, is 40’-0” topographical difference. From platform to the highest point, skatepark is 30’-0”. This park graciously utilizes all aspects that most designers would find challenging. The extreme topography is only a benefit for this type of programmatic use. The use of stairs, ramps, and large clear stretches of concrete allow for speed, and create an unlimited amount of opportunity for exploration. This park thrives on its challenged landscape.

Highway underpass leading to the remaining portion of the skatepark. The overall head height of this space is 9’-0” at the lowest point. While the park continuously slopes downward toward the river, the clearance beneath the highway underpass doesn't go beyond 12’-0.” While the proximity to the highway and its constant noise and vibrations would be problematic for a building, the skate park, which is generally loud and messy in nature, thrives in these conditions. It has become a blank canvas for art and exploration of skating, rollerblading, and biking.

Highway underpass leading to the remaining portion of the skatepark. The overall head height of this space is 9’-0” at the lowest point. While the park continuously slopes downward toward the river, the clearance beneath the highway underpass doesn't go beyond 12’-0.” While the proximity to the highway and its constant noise and vibrations would be problematic for a building, the skate park, which is generally loud and messy in nature, thrives in these conditions. It has become a blank canvas for art and exploration of skating, rollerblading, and biking.

View from main skating stage. The entire skatepark is gradually sloping downward towards the river.

View from main skating stage. The entire skatepark is gradually sloping downward towards the river.

View from main skating stage looking towards the highway underpass, which leads to additional zones for skating.

View from main skating stage looking towards the highway underpass, which leads to additional zones for skating.

View from side stage, mainly used for continuous ramp jumping. While the skatepark is covered in concrete, the Parks Department has still sectioned off areas that are designated green spaces. These steep sloped zones have therefore become even more unusable.

View from side stage, mainly used for continuous ramp jumping. While the skatepark is covered in concrete, the Parks Department has still sectioned off areas that are designated green spaces. These steep sloped zones have therefore become even more unusable.

View from empty path. According to renovation design plans, this path will lead to a number of soccer fields and other public areas.

View from empty path. According to renovation design plans, this path will lead to a number of soccer fields and other public areas.

View from the main skating stage.

View from the main skating stage.

Olga Anaya, Designer