Case Study Clemson 4

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---> back to overview of Future Landscapes Group 4

Teardrop Park

  • By: Pay, Ray, Badwe, Qin, Zhong
Name Teardrop Park
Location Battery Park City, New York
Country United States
Office Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc
Client Battery Park City Authority
Completion September 30, 2004
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Core Question 1: In how far does this project reveal your concept of future landscapes?

We foresee that with global urban growth, the problems of lack of materials and energy, toxic pollution and high density of tall buildings will become a much more serious issue. Thus, we hold the opinion that future landscapes should better address these problems leading to long-term sustainable development. Teardrop Park in NY, USA is such a representative project where "green" credentials are reflected in every aspect of its development, such as including fully organic manufactured soils, better solving the shade created by buildings and recycling water. Future landscapes should use more technology and research to face constant problems by development and are practiced in every detail of landscape just like this project.

Landscape and/or urban context

Teardrop Park transcends its small size, shady environment, and mid-block urban location through a meandering design formed with complex irregular spaces, robust plantings, strong materials and bold topography that create places for prospect and refuge. Designed primarily as a landscape for children, the park's spatial structure and reinterpretation of natural form makes a place for exploration and movement.

Teardrop Park is a 1.8 acre public park located in Battery Park City, a mixed-use neighborhood on the southwestern side of lower Manhattan. It was surrounded by four apartment buildings. The flat, featureless plot of land that was the pre-existing site was created in the 1980s by filling in a portion of the Hudson River shoreline. This resulted in a high water table and potential for lateral infiltration of river waters that limited the potential depth of site program. Solar analysis indicated that the residential towers that were to define the corners of the park, each ranging from 210 feet to 235 feet in height, would create tremendous shade. Wind studies indicated that the east/west corridors through the park would experience strong, cold, and desiccating winds off the Hudson River while the areas between the buildings would be more protected.(6)

Illustration: Please see Image 1 "Solar Map" below.

Cultural/social/political context

  • Brief explanation of culture, political economy, legal framework

- The site is surrounded by multistory towers having very limited open recreation area.

- The neighborhood is bounded by high school, office areas, Splash Park and residential areas.

- The main design focus is to integrate natural elements in the site to the modern urban environment.

- The Landscape architects use geological rocks, native plants with the modern technology. The rock used in the design was quarried from 500 miles away from the site. - The site value is very high because it is located prime area in the New York City.

- Because the site is always in shade the architects have to use solar maps.

- The park is not only limited to the surrounding residential area but also to the all over community. This resulted in social interaction with the all age groups.

Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

  • What are the main structural features?
  • How has it been shaped? Were there any critical decisions?

- The park is designed for all age groups. For example, small play ground to children and plaza areas for adult.

- The designers opened park not only for residents but for all surrounding community.

- Prior to the construction the site was empty and flat. The park was surrounded by high-rise buildings resulted very less light on the park. Hence, Architect uses structural solar reflectors or Heliostats arrangement to bring light from surroundings.

- Heliostats are mirror arrays that track the sun, following preprogrammed sequencing directions from software or responding to exterior-mounted sensors. Sunlight can be reflected from a large, high-quality, roof-mounted circular tracking mirror to a secondary mirror or mirrors, and then directed inside a building, letting sunshine appear as if it were provided by electrical sources. (5)

- Curvilinear paths ways granite sculptures creates interest in the park. - Sustainable initiatives include reusing gray water collected from the surrounding buildings in the irrigation of the park as well as the selection of sustainable construction materials. (7) - The plantings of Teardrop Park is becomes habitat for migratory birds. The designer uses approximately 1680 plants without any Chemical fertilizers, pesticides. - With the help of paintings, sculpture designer is able to create nostalgic ambiance. Urbanski is a principal with the office of Michael Van Valkenburg Associates says, “We realized we needed to evoke nature, not mock nature.” The firm quickly abandoned its initial concept of creating a “revealed bedrock” look. Instead, it embraced an idea Urbanski describes as “building nature from quarried pieces.” (7)

Analysis of program/function

  • What are the main functional characteristics?

Teardrop features a magnificent "Ice Wall," artwork by Ann Hamilton and Michael Mercil, a children's slide, sand boxes, water play, a reading area with rock seats, places to "rock hop," naturalistic plantings and the Marsh.

  • How have they been expressed or incorporated?

The Ice-Water Wall simultaneously suggests and reinterprets the geology of New York state. The individual pieces of Alcove bluestone (technically a thick veneer), retain their natural shape, color, and surface irregularity. Recessed black mortar helps establish solidity. The 14-foot long custom-made stainless steel slide, rested on the side of a bowled land form, and the Wooden Step Seats (foreground) create a social microcosm shared by sliders, climbers, onlookers, diggers, and New York Times readers. The Reading Circle between a segment of the Geologic Section (left, by the artist) and Hellebore Hill (right). The naturalistic imagery and openness of Teardrop's central Lawn Bowl creates strong urban juxtapositions and opportunities for landscape escape within the architectural immediacy of the four surrounding residential towers. Water Play. Within an interior circulation of play circuits, Teardrop Park creates the conditions for children's play that feels far removed from traffic and ordinary street life. Children are able to turn the water on and off. The Marsh. Lush vegetation with the wildlife it supports creates an environment of open-ended play and endless discovery. The Marsh is fed by carefully directed surface site runoff and manufactured soils to retain moisture. Narrow passage is scaled for children.

Analysis of design/planning process

  • How was the area/project/plan formulated and implemented?

Formulation: When it was first opened in 2004, Teardrop Park was praised for its use of natural plantings in a children's park [3] [1]. One article described the park as being crowded with children and parents jam packed with experience, and offering a welcome naturalistic retreat from the city [4].

Implementation: The park opened on September 30, 2004 and is just one within a network of Battery Park City parks. In the immediate vicinity of Teardrop Park, Rockefeller Park features a popular playground with standard equipment. In designing another children's park in the area, the choice was made to complement rather than replicate the programmatic uses of Rockefeller Park. At Teardrop, play elements are integrated into the landscape with the intention of providing city children with play experiences that encourage sensory imagination through interaction with natural materials including water, plants, rock, and sand. Teardrop Park was designed in collaboration with play experts from the Natural Learning Initiative. The shadier southern half of the site is an active play area featuring a long slide, two sand pits, "theatre steps" and a water playground. The northern half of the park is programmed play space featuring a broad lawn, which is graded to catch the most light from the south, park benches, a small wetland play path, and a perched gathering area made from New York State rocks, an installation created by the artist Ann Hamilton. Dividing these two areas is a large rock wall, constructed from New York State sedimentary rocks specially imported for the park. The rocks are stacked to resemble a natural stratum and include a water source to allow icicles to form in the winter. A short tunnel connects the two areas, and is an homage to Frederick Law Olmsted and the tunnels he created within Central Park in New York City. Pathways criss-cross the site, providing elevated views within the park and beyond as well as urban connections across the park. The park was designed in accordance with Battery Park City's Green Guidelines. Sustainable initiatives include reusing gray water collected from the surrounding buildings in the irrigation of the park as well as the selection of sustainable construction materials. The plantings of Teardrop Park are designed to thrive on a relatively shady site and provide habitat for native and migratory birds. The soils of the park are designed to support plant life without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. With construction beginning in 2008 and completion projected in 2009, Teardrop Park will be expanded across the street to the south. The design of Teardrop South is also by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and it will continue certain themes from the original park. The new portion of the park will address its heavily shaded microclimate through the introduction of three 8-foot-diameter (2.4 m) heliostats, or solar mirrors, that reflect the sun from the top of a residential apartment building in Battery Park City. The mirrors were designed by Carpenter Norris Consulting [2].

  • Were there any important consultations/collaborations?

Teardrop Park was designed in collaboration with play experts from the Natural Learning Initiative. The landscape architects were the prime consultant, responsible for organizing the project team and overseeing design from initial concept through construction administration. The park's design and construction was coordinated by the landscape architects with that of the four surrounding apartment buildings, creating opportunities to fine-tune architectural massing as a means of improving site environments. In addition to engineers and lighting consultants, contributing subconsultants included child development specialists, soils engineers, and a fountain designer. Illustration: Map/diagram/sketches photos and background notes

Analysis of use/users

  • How is the area/project/plan used and by whom?
  • Is the use changing? Are there any issues?

The project is anchored in giving the surrounding urban residents a place to get away from their daily structures and textures. A strong corner stone of its design focuses on children. There is a theory that experiencing natural environments in early childhood development is an important role for developing childhood creativity; however children that grow up strong urban areas generally miss this opportunity. The majority of playground areas in urban or inner city settings focus highly on low maintenance metal play equipment and deture from the use on plants as interaction objects. They are mostly used to frame areas or block users from sites. The elements of Teardrop Park are designed to address this issue for urban children by offering natural environmental elements that are engaging and to be interacted with, thus stimulating their creativity. The Park provides such natural elements as a large variety of native plantings, natural stone elements that were quarried only 500 miles away from the site, a splash park that has a water source that can be controlled by the observant, different sizes of topography and scale changes creating hidden sanctuaries, and an intricately choreographed set of views throughout the park.

The park also gives a relaxing vista and images for older people that frequent the neighborhood elements around the park as to create a unity of use for everyone. Due to this park being a newer addition to its area it has not gone through any lengthy time changes but as its main focus is on children the sites use is always changing and evolving with the viewer.

Illustration: Please see Image 2 "Children Playing" below

Core Question 2: What is the role of landscape architecture in this project?

Due to the placement and size of the area key physical issues needed to have special attention in addressing the biological attributes. The site has a tremendous amount of shade due to the 4 large apartment and office buildings surrounding it. This meant specific detail needed to be pay attention to the solar mapping of the site to maximize the plant placement. As for a central theme the site addresses this more as a focus between site and interaction. It lets the viewer interact with his imagination at the site by not having set equipment play areas and corralling pathways framing the different elements. A person is left to their own chooses of for an area is supposed to be handled. This allows the site and view to merge together in an informal way that can be more influence(8).

Image Gallery


Please add literature, documentations and weblinks


(teardrop1.jpg) Park View -

(teardrop2.jpg) Solar Map -

(teardrop3.jpg) Children Playing -

(teardrop4.jpg) Ice wall - Photo by Paul Wachol

(teardrop5.jpg) Children’s slide - Photo courtesy of sharon_k.

(teardrop6.jpg) Park Lawn -


1. Crain, Ellen, "Teardrop Park for Kids", Letter to the Editor, New York Times, October 2, 2004

2. Dumiak, Michael, "Simple and bright, heliostats tap sunlight for lighting outdoor and, increasingly, indoor spaces", Architectural Record, May

3. Dunlap, David, "A Chip Off the Old Park," New York Times, September 30, 2004

4. Hines, Susan, "Abstract Realism", Landscape Architecture, February 2007