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BY JACKSON CHEN
The stage is set at South Street Seaport.
The redevelopers of the Seaport district recently unveiled the marquee architectural flourish planned for the Pier 17 project, a vast rooftop stage topped with an undulating, translucent canopy.
The awesome awning was designed by German architect Achim Menges, who specializes in light, ethereal structures crafted with 3-D printers or woven from carbon fibers.
“It’s actually a piece of art,” said Saul Scherl, executive vice president of the site’s developer, the Howard Hughes Corporation, which is plowing nearly $2 billion in to the Seaport area. “We looked at many designs, what we loved about this was its unique nature and creativity as well as the fact that it’s translucent to maintain the view corridors of the Brooklyn Bridge.”
The rooftop stage will be able to accommodate up to 4,000 people and will be next to a restaurant and two outdoors bars on the 60,000-square-foot rooftop space. Scherl added that the rooftop was substantially complete and would be finished in the fall and set to open next summer.
The see-through canopy is intended to maintain sightlines of Lower Manhattan, according to Scherl, as well as views of the Brooklyn Bridge to the north and the Wavertree ship to the south. The entire, four-story, glass-clad Pier 17 project, he said, is designed to make the most of the panoramic vistas available from its East River perch.
As much as Howard Hughes Corp’s seven-building restaurant-retail development is meant to look outwards, it’s what’s planned for inside that will be the real draw.
The new Seaport District has attracted culinary giants like Momofuku’s David Chang and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but also more experimental offerings like the vegan take on fast food, by CHLOE.
The restaurants will be joined by carefully selected retail shops, such as McNally Jackson Books and the Dutch fashion store, Scotch and Soda. In June, the company announced Big Gay Ice Cream, DITA eyewear, and Fellow Barber — a contemporary take on classic barbershops — as the newest retail tenants.
The aim is to avoid the cookie-cutter feel of other, chain-heavy retail developments and keep a distinctive character for the area, according to Scherl, mirroring how the architectural charm of the South Street Seaport Historic District contrasts with the glassy skyscrapers of Downtown.
“We’re trying to stay away from traditional retail and look to creating a unique environment, something that’s thoughtfully curated,” Scherl said. “It’s really important to us that this maintain its culture and history and that we don’t move away from that and become a site for tourists alone.”
The new buildings also incorporate corrugated metal and wood accents to reflect the Seaport’s historical elements, Scherl explained, so that — despite the high-tech canopy atop Pier 17 — the development will still feel down to earth, and in context with the 400-year-old seaport.
“The new has to reflect the old,” Scherl said. “You can’t leave the old out, you got to embrace it.”