Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse
Located on the Harlem River immediately south of Sherman Creek, the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse at Swindler Cove Park reestablishes the historic presence of recreational boating facilities on Manhattan’s northern waterfront. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this area was the site of a number of boathouses, including those of Columbia and Fordham universities, which served a flourishing network of competitive rowing clubs. Rowing activities have continued at this location – albeit on a smaller scale – up to the present time. Columbia still uses the end of the bulkhead immediately south of the site as the finish line for its intercollegiate races.
The boathouse is a public facility conceived of and developed by the New York Restoration Project, a non-profit, privately funded organization that works in New York City to restore neglected landscapes to active public use. This project is part of a rehabilitation of the blighted shoreline area undertaken tNew York City and New York State agencies. To avoid harming the fragile intertidal environment, the boathouse was designed as a floating structure, as were the earlier boathouses located on the site. Access to the facility from the promenade atop the nearby embankment is through a gated entrance and down a series of ramped fixed piers leading to floating docks. Armand LeGardeur Architect designed the gate and piers under contract to the New York State Department of Transportation.
The project is located in a sensitive natural environment in an area in which many government agencies have regulatory and implementation responsibilities. Execution of this project involved extensive coordination with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, as well as conformance to Americans with Disabilities Act standards for the pier.
The detailing of the building, including roof brackets, board and batten exterior walls, and color scheme, respond both to the client’s desire to evoke historic park buildings in Central Park and to time-honored maritime building traditions. The use of the boathouse as a base for rowing programs is reflected in the decorative elements developed for the project. The entry gate is formed of aluminum oar pickets, placed so that the paddles create an alternating up and down pattern; the handrails on the pier are designed to suggest undulating waves; and the balusters on the observation deck are oar handles. The first floor of the boathouse contains storage space and a launching area for sixteen boats of various sizes, while administrative, exercise, and meeting rooms are housed on the building’s second floor. Spectators can enjoy crew practices and races from a second-floor deck
The boathouse design draws from the past; at the same time, its realization constitutes an important, long-awaited step in reclaiming a particularly significant stretch of New York City waterfront for recreational use.
The project received an award from the New York City Art Commission in 2001.
Executed in association with Robert A.M. Stern Architects