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Foster + Partners reveals New York charity boathouse vision

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Foster + Partners has unveiled its plans for a new 1,300m² boathouse for non-profit youth organisation Row New York

The boathouse will provide new enlarged facilities for the 16-year-old charity, which delivers a competitive sports and academic support programme to young people from ‘under-resourced communities’ across the city.

As reported by the AJ last year, the AJ100 top-ranked practice is working for free on the northern Manhattan project, along with local studio Bade Stageberg Cox.

Practice founder Norman Foster said: ‘In envisioning a design for a boathouse that will serve a diverse population and be a resource to the community at large, I wanted to create a building that was both functional and accessible, but also one that responded to the Hudson River’s long history as a busy transportation hub.

‘This timber boathouse will fit naturally into the landscape of the riverfront and will transform this stretch of the Harlem River into a lively gathering place for people from all communities.’

The new facility will feature a learning centre with two ‘state-of-the-art’ classrooms, along with five boat bays that can accommodate up to 60 boats and kayaks for public use.

It will be constructed a short distance from Row New York’s existing boathouse between the Sherman Creek nature trail and Riley Levin Children’s Garden in Inwood, north Manhattan.

Architect’s view

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Hudson River was dotted with many timber boathouses along its banks. The new Harlem Boathouse recalls this tradition with a simple rectilinear structure made entirely from wood. The new building is fully accessible – a generous plaza foregrounds the building, from where a gentle folding ramp extends to the upper and lower levels of the building.

The lower level contains an expanded storage for boats, which is designed to withstand severe flooding, while the upper level features a large multipurpose hall alongside changing rooms and classrooms for after-school programmes. This expansive flowing space on the upper level opens onto a wide terrace on the building’s eastern edge, looking onto the river and framing views of early-morning sunrise as the rowers begin the first sessions.

The boathouse is shaded by a large folding timber canopy that sails over the structure, cantilevering over the plaza and terrace and providing shelter from the sun. Its distinctive timber lattice is a fusion of engineering and design, providing soft, dappled shade to the flexible multipurpose waterfront open space, a landscaped area designed for informal leisure activities as well as community events and performances. The boathouse will transform this stretch of the Harlem River into an arena at the heart of the community, furthering the wider social and educational aims of Row New York.

Foster + Partners' proposed boathouse for Row New York

Foster + Partners’ proposed boathouse for Row New York

Foster + Partners’ proposed boathouse for Row New York

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