By Brian J. Pape
Passing by the evening up-lit slanted walls of poured concrete, one could easily imagine the mass as a glacier calf, floating ashore at the Hudson River. At night, the smooth formwork has created a mottled lichen pattern that gives the impression of a light skin, while the daytime appearance is much more massive and aggressive, with the sun-bleached concrete walls looming out over the sidewalks. To compare it with crystal or ice would be deceiving though, because there is no glassy finish on this new Salt Shed.
Now at the final stage of completion, this windowless sculpture joins another nearly complete new Department of Sanitation building, forming an impressive utilitarian ensemble in the midst of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, with all the controversy that new construction brings to the fore.
Back in 2005, residents were notified that the City Dept. of Sanitation planned to develop their properties at West Street and Spring Street to meet the needs of their department; after all, under a 2005 settlement with Friends of Hudson River Park, it had until 2013 to move over 150 sanitation vehicles serving three community boards off a peninsula at Gansevoort Street. It was the City’s goal to design buildings that even West Villagers could learn to like, a big challenge! Opponents responded by spending more than $50,000 on a competition to draw up architectural alternatives, to no avail. The 400-foot-long sanitation garage endured years of community haggling and opposition.
The Garage and Shed are designed to achieve a LEED Gold certification by Dattner Architects in association with WXY Architecture + Urban Design. The project designs were born out of the Bloomberg Administration’s emphasis on improving the quality of architecture and design for public works projects, raising the bar for the city’s capital projects when contracting architects and consultants.
The double-skin façade of the Garage wraps the glass and aluminum curtainwall with perforated metal louvers to control sun exposure. A ‘green’ planted roof softens views from neighboring buildings, protects the roof membrane, and enhances storm water retention. The $20 million Spring Street Salt Shed’s solid angular form acts as a counterpoint to the orthogonal façade of the $500 million Manhattan 1/2/5 Garage. Rising from a 14,600-square-foot triangular site at the heavily-trafficked intersection, the 7,700- square-foot Salt Shed replaces a dilapidated one-story sanitation shed. The entrance door is hidden on the west facade, away from view. The general contractor, Oliveira Contracting, created the full-scale formwork up to six feet thick, into which the concrete was cast on site.
This project received the NYC Art Commission Design Award. Ms. Amanda M. Burden, the city planning director in the Bloomberg administration, noted, “My thoughts about the shed were that it should be a singular sculptural object.” James Stewart Polshek, a noted architect, Village resident, and a member of the Public Design Commission, helped collaborate on the direction to take: “a faceted building.” Even Tobi Bergman, the chairman of Community Board 2, said “It is in the great tradition of these necessary utilitarian buildings being done in a very appropriate and beautiful way.” It may even be the most important change to the public face of the sanitation agency since its fleet was painted white in 1967, said Rick Bell, executive director of the design and construction excellence program in the Department of Design and Construction.
Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP, is a Historic Preservation & Green Architect located at 130 Barrow St., Ste. 213.